Big Turnout at Annual SUU Football Pro Day
By SUU Strategic Communication
Courtesy of The Spectrum - Ryan Miller
ST. GEORGE, Utah – Josh Thornton, Raysean Pringle, Tate Lewis, Mike Sharp, Malik Brown and Steven Wroblewski have a stigma to overcome as they try to make it to the NFL.
“First thing they say is, ‘You’re a small school guy,’” Thornton said. “You got to make sure you make a name for yourself.”
Southern Utah University might be a small school, but it’s a small school that NFL scouts have clearly noticed. The Thunderbirds held its second ever NFL Pro Day at Desert Hills High School, and a larger-than-expected audience showed up. Seventeen NFL scouts made the trip to St. George Wednesday.
SUU had around 20 scouts attend last year's first ever Pro Day, but that was with bonafide prospects James Cowser, Miles Killebrew and LeShaun Sims.
SUU doesn't have that type of prospect this year, but the high number of scouts in attendance Wednesday is proof the T-Birds have earned a reputation for developing NFL talent.
Killebrew and Sims were both selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, and Cowser was on the Raiders’ 53-man roster at the end of the 2016-17 season. The trio didn’t just make teams, they all played significant snaps and made key contributions. Then, in the offseason, former SUU punter Brock Miller signed a futures deal with the 49ers.
Before them, quarterback Brad Sorensen became the first SUU player to be drafted when he was selected in the 2013 NFL Draft.
It’d be a stretch to call SUU an NFL factory, but it’s a school worth keeping an eye on come draft time, and it's why over half the league was present to watch SUU’s 2017 NFL hopefuls be measured and run through drills. The six players all had some shining moments.
“Steve and Raysean really helped themselves today,” SUU head coach Demario Warren said.
Wroblewski measured out at 6-foot-7 and ran a low 4.6 in the 40-yard dash, which would have placed him about sixth among tight ends in the 2017 NFL combine. He also showed he was more than just an athlete, running crisp routes and catching the ball cleanly.
Pringle was the top athlete on the field Wednesday. The former T-Bird running back ran a sub-4.40 40-yard dash and had the top broad jump of the day.
His measurements and times had many NFL scouts at the event questioning his position, and they ran him through defensive back drills to close out the day. Pringle playing defense is something his former head coach saw long ago.
“I kept trying to steal him when I was a defensive coordinator, but he didn’t want to come over,” Warren said. “Maybe if I had an NFL logo, he would have come over.”
Lewis’s punt workout included a ball that died at the 1-yard line and a few more high, booming kicks that made an onlooking Killebrew say, “Now, that’s an NFL punt.”
As Lewis was punting, Killebrew was helping Thornton warm up and get ready for his individual workout. Killebrew and Sims both had given Thornton advice leading up to Pro Day, but his workout was a little different than what his former teammates experienced.
“It was a little longer than I expected and longer than how Miles and LeShaun explained it,” Thornton said. “But I felt pretty good about it. It’s pretty nerve-wracking. You have played all this football and it all comes down to 40 yards and 20-yard shuttles.”
Scouts heavily tested Thornton on his reaction time — something he expects to happen more and more in individual workouts as the draft gets closer.
“They had me do a lot of reaction stuff,” Thornton said. “I think a lot of teams will have me do private workouts, so they can get more in depth with some of the drills they want to see.”
Killebrew wasn’t the only former T-Bird in attendance Wednesday. Cowser and former quarterback Ammon Olsen were also at Desert Hills. And while Cowser and Killebrew were just watching, Olsen had a purpose. Olsen was asked to come down and throw to the receiving group.
“You don’t want to know how long it’s been since I’ve last thrown,” Olsen said as he warmed up from the sideline.
The former all-conference and Big Sky champion quarterback didn’t look too rusty, though. He made throws that allowed Sharp, Wroblewski and Brown to show off their hands and route running abilities.
“Hopefully they keep on coming back,” Warren said of the former players. “They seem to support the program pretty well. We’ve been a big family for a long time.”
A large number of current players also made the drive from Cedar City to support their teammates. Linebacker Mike Needham was among them, and he was approached by a number of NFL scouts as the event drew to a close.
“We got a great community with great families. They all come out and support each other,” Warren said. “It’s fun to see the guys from last year, the guys from this year and the (NFL) guys of the future.”