Professional football dreams and aspirations were on the line Friday at Coastal Carolina University’s athletic facilities.
Seniors and graduates from Coastal Carolina and a few other universities had their primary chance to impress scouts with a dozen NFL teams during the Palmetto Pro Day.
Similar to the NFL Scouting Combine, players were put through a series of strength, leaping, speed and agility drills in addition to football-specific tasks.
“Hopefully they like what they saw today and at the end of April I’ll see if I can still play football or not,” CCU offensive lineman Chase Tidwell said.
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For many, this was their primary if not sole chance to make an impression on a professional scout or coach.
“You’re probably more anxious because this is not really too much football, they’re judging you off agility drills and stuff like that, which is fine,” CCU wide receiver Bruce Mapp said. “You have to do it. It’s the stuff they put you through. You’re anxious that you don’t slip, you don’t miss a line and they scratch you. You basically had to have a perfect day.”
A total of 14 NFL scouts representing the Oakland Raiders, New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, Kansas City Chiefs, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Washington Redskins, New York Giants, Houston Texans, Carolina Panthers, Arizona Cardinals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers were on hand to evaluate the participating student-athletes, as well as a scout from the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League.
Former Coastal Carolina quarterback Alex Ross, who threw to receivers and running backs in drills Friday, signed with British Columbia in January.
Among the 23 current or former student-athletes participating Friday were 2016 CCU team members running backs De’Angelo Henderson and Kenny Daniels, defensive lineman Jabarai Bothwell, wide receivers Devin Brown and Mapp, offensive linemen Dom DiGalbo, Sam Ekwonike, Voghens Larrieux and Tidwell, linebacker/safety Alex Scearce, defensive backs Adam Maxie, Richie Sampson, Kam Summers and C.J. Thompson.
Former Chants Danny Anousheh, Tyrell Blanks and John Israel were also present, as were a few players from Charleston Southern, Florida A&M, Newberry and Limestone.
Henderson, a Football Championship Subdivision All-America selection, was the one player at the Pro Day who had already performed most of the drills at the NFL Scouting Combine and had just shuttle runs remaining for Friday, which he believes he performed well. Players weren’t told what their times were Friday.
“My benefit was I went to the combine so everything was all over the media and on TV,” Henderson said. “They don’t have that luxury, so they’re hoping they can get their results from the scouts or one of the coaches here. It’s nerve-racking, unsure what numbers you put up because you know there are certain areas you need to be at in terms of numbers. It can mess your head up a little bit.”
Henderson believes some of his teammates may have created opportunities for themselves Friday.
“They performed way better than I think a lot of people expected them to,” Henderson said. “I think a lot of the scouts were shocked to see how well they can move, how strong they were, how athletic those guys were and I’m happy for them. They deserve everything that’s going to come to them. They’ve been working hard.”
Henderson has aspirations of being drafted between the fourth and seventh rounds, while most other players are hoping to be invited to an NFL camp as a rookie free agent and have an opportunity to compete for a roster spot.
“I can go and compete on special teams to make a spot,” said Mapp, who had dinner with a representative of the Houston Texans on Thursday night. “Right now I’m looked at as a free agent-type guy, which is fine. Wherever I go I’m going to compete, regardless.”
While some players trained primarily at Coastal Carolina’s facilities over the past three months, many CCU players traveled to training facilities in preparation for the Pro Day.
Mapp trained with Henderson at the Michael Johnson Performance facility in Texas for two months, and Tidwell trained at Velocity Sports Performance in Charlotte. His preparation included a specific diet, weight lifting, exercises for explosion and speed, yoga and stretching.
“The preparation is a process,” said Tidwell, who said his agent has been speaking with a few NFL teams. “I feel I had a really, really good day. I felt I ran well, moved pretty well. But it’s just an awesome experience to be here, be around the pro scouts and be out there with your buddies competing and working. It was just an overall fun day.”