Heavy rain took its toll on the Coastal Carolina football program’s Palmetto Pro Day on Friday morning, shuffling up the order of activities and forcing most of the event inside.
But Chanticleer quarterback Alex Ross found a way to make a strong impression nonetheless, throwing darts to whichever receiver was up next and whichever route could be run inside the school’s baseball/softball hitting facility as a collection of NFL scouts watched and evaluated.
A scout from the Dallas Cowboys who stood just to Ross’ right repeatedly nodded in approval as Coastal Carolina’s all-time leading passer – and record-holder in a number of categories – threw with zip and sharp accuracy while trying to prove that he deserves a shot at the next level.
“It was really big. I wanted to get out here and show scouts that I’m big enough to be durable enough in the league and that I can make those big boy throws,” Ross said. “I thought I did pretty good today. There were a few things I could have done better. My broad jump I wish I did a little bit better. My numbers I really don’t know right now, but I felt like I was doing pretty good. And as far as throwing, it was coming out of my hand pretty good today so I’m comfortable with it.”
Ross has always passed the eye test. He established himself as a Chanticleer great in totaling 9,918 passing yards, 1,564 rushing yards and 91 combined touchdowns while delivering a slew of legacy-building performances during the program’s rise up the FCS national rankings these last several years.
Officially listed at 6-foot-1 and coming from the FCS level, though, he’ll be heavily scrutinized by professional talent evaluators trying to determine who to take a chance on in the NFL Draft on April 28-30 and in the rookie free agent frenzy afterward.
You’ve just got to wait it out and see what happens because things don’t really happen until the end of April. I’m going to continue working out, continue throwing, continue handling my business and whatever happens happens.
CCU quarterback Alex Ross
Nine NFL scouts from the Oakland Raiders, Dallas Cowboys, Carolina Panthers, San Francisco 49ers, San Diego Chargers, New York Giants, Kansas City Chiefs, Green Bay Packers and New York Jets were in attendance Friday morning along with a scout from the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes. Ross chatted with a few of them after he was done throwing.
“They said they liked what they saw, they saw what they needed to see, and from here it’s a [waiting] game, waiting to see what they’re going to say or waiting to hear from them and that’s not really going to happen until the draft,” he said.
“There’s nothing particular that I’m expecting. If I’m being realistic it would be some sort of free agent type of opportunity, getting into a minicamp or rookie minicamp so I’m just waiting on that.”
Ross spent six weeks training at the Parabolic Performance facility in New Jersey with fellow pro prospects and working with former NFL quarterback Jay Fiedler before returning to Coastal Carolina a couple weeks ago to continue his throwing routine here.
He said the experience working with Fiedler was especially valuable in his preparations.
“He really knows what he’s talking about and he bestowed a lot of information on me that I was able to take and harness,” Ross said.
He’s set to work out at the Atlanta Falcons’ local Pro Day on April 6 and will hope to earn additional workouts with teams prior to the draft.
Ross is looking to become the second Coastal Carolina quarterback along with Tyler Thigpen to realize his dream of playing in the NFL.
“You’ve just got to wait it out and see what happens because things don’t really happen until the end of April. I’m going to continue working out, continue throwing, continue handling my business and whatever happens happens,” Ross said.
“It’s absolutely a dream. Ever since I was growing up I was wearing a Michael Vick jersey, Warrick Dunn jersey rooting for my home team the Falcons, and now it’s kind of becoming a reality. Those opportunities are there, and I’ve just got to make the most of those opportunities.”
Ross was joined by 11 fellow Chants, including former kicker Alex Catron, and players from Charleston Southern, Presbyterian, Newberry, Limestone and Jacksonville State at the Pro Day event who are also hoping to continue pursuing the same dream.
And for a fringe prospect, every test in the weight room, every 40-yard dash time and every opportunity on the field counts.
“Performance is everything. When the lights are on and everybody’s watching, that’s when it matters the most,” Chants’ safety Kelvin Deveaux said. “So me being not as scouted or [rated] as everybody else, I have to go out there and prove a little more. I feel like I did that today.”
Added senior defensive end Roderick Holder: “It was very important just to showcase my skills and get out there and show the scouts what I can do. I definitely feel like I helped myself. I’ve just got to wait this month and whatever God chooses [for] my path that’s the way it’s going to be.”
Deveaux, Holder and fellow Chants Datarius Allen, Devon Brant, Tyrell Brown, John Israel (who was hurt and didn’t take part Friday), Rayshaud Shields and Catron are all represented by agent Scott N. Bergman, who says he has 75 clients across the country while specializing in trying to advocate for the fringe prospects and underdogs.
He was disappointed that the weather disrupted the schedule and location of the activities Friday, moving the 40-yard timing ahead of the weight room tests and limiting the the opportunities outside on the field.
“Obviously today being a heavy rain day I’m a little concerned whether we can get true data. All these pro days are about job interviews and getting accurate data for all the teams,” Bergman said. “… Today had it been a perfect non-rainy day I can tell you that the data they would have had on a perfect sunny day here will be different than the data they have on a rainy day. But it is what it is. This is the time slot. You can’t help Mother Nature.”
Once he receives all of that data back, Bergman said he’ll begin contacting every NFL team and trying to create opportunities for his clients.
Every NFL team is limited to bringing in 30 prospects for one-on-one workouts, he said, but they can conduct additional sessions at school sites and every team can hold a local pro day for athletes from their market area or who went to school in that market.
“It is a lot of marketing, just constant blitzing, everything from texting, Facebook, Twitter, email, phone calls and just hoping that there’s interest there that these guys can get on the boards,” Bergman said. “The real action is after the draft – 6 o’clock on Saturday when that phone starts ringing that we want to either sign him or bring him in for a tryout.
“The goal right now is to get them into minicamp. That is the ultimate goal. Even if they don’t get signed, they get minicamp film, the film is shared among other teams. I’ve had guys get into minicamp, didn’t get signed and then a day before training camp they get pulled in. … You have to be patient with the process.”
Patient, persistent and perhaps a little bit open-minded.
In the case of Holder for instance, Bergman said the 6-foot-1 defensive end could be used in a number of ways by a team, even perhaps at fullback.
Whatever it takes to get an opportunity and another chance to make an impression.
“I never know from my side of the fence truly what a team is thinking,” Bergman said. “All I can say is ‘These are the benefits that that this guy can do for you.’ You also look for a team that’s in need for someone like that. You have to analyze what you think is a good fit for that team even if the team doesn’t think it’s a good fit. If you get them thinking outside the box sometimes they’ll take that person. It is a lot of educated analysis, sometimes a little bit of luck.
“But again, there’s no perfect science. A lot of it comes from your gut instinct to say, ‘Your better odds for [a player] are this team, this team and this team.’ But another team may say, ‘Pull him in.’ And I’ve seen that where I get surprised and blindsided by another team I had no idea would be a fit.”