Former Missouri linebacker Andrew Wilson was disappointed he didn’t receive an NFL Combine invite, but he got his chance to shine before a national audience Thursday at Devine Pavilion.
Wilson, a Ray-Pec graduate and 10th-leading tackler in Tigers history, was among 15 players who worked out during Missouri’s annual Pro Day for scouts from every NFL team except Washington, according to the NFL Network.
“It’s big, because it’s my one chance to show the scouts and the coaches what I can do,” said Wilson, who set a new personal best with a broad jump of 9 feet, 7 inches.
He also ran a 4.69 40-yard dash and displayed a 33 1/2-inch vertical.
“There’s always things to improve on, but hopefully I showed these guys something and we’ll see where it goes,” said Wilson, who will work out for the Patriots next week and also talked to a handful of other teams.
Of course, Wilson (6-2 1/2, 239) was hardly the only draft-eligible Tiger trying to make a positive impression on a prospective NFL employer.
Fortunately for him, the national media — including ESPN, Fox Sports 1 and the NFL Network — showed up in force.
“I had a half-dozen (scouts) come up to me and say it’s amazing what has happened around here in the last 12 or 13 years, so that made me feel good that we’ve certainly made progress,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “We want to be first class. … To get that out on ESPN, Fox (Sports) 1 and the NFL Network, it’s obviously a tremendous plus for us and it’s a great marketing tool.”
Defensive ends Michael Sam and Kony Ealy had a lot to do with intense spotlight.
Sam is the reigning SEC player of the year and is bidding to become the NFL’s first openly gay player, while Ealy is a projected first-round pick after opting out of his final year of eligibility at Missouri.
Still, Wilson and others in the same boat, like quarterback James Franklin (6-2, 230), weren’t complaining about the attention.
“It’s very important and it’s helpful,” Franklin said of the national-media presence. “That’s kind of how I got recruited in high school. Scouts would go there for other teams or coaches would come for other players and then they would see me there. That’s kind of how I got attention. It’s a good opportunity for everybody.”
Perhaps nobody took advantage of the setting more than tight end Eric Waters (6-3, 250), who wowed the crowd — and presumably the scouts — with a 4.58 40-yard dash, 39 1/2-inch vertical and 10-2 1/2 broad jump.
“Overall, today was probably one of the better days I’ve had testing in the last four years, so I am very proud of myself and I am more than happy with where I placed myself after today,” Waters said. “This is the kind of day I needed to put out there for everybody to see.”
Ealy (6-4, 265) and Sam (6-2, 263) also bolstered their measurables compared to last month’s NFL Combine.
Ealy improved in the vertical and broad jumps and also dropped his 40 time from 4.92 to 4.57, which is only 0.04 seconds off the eye-popping time turned in at the NFL Combine by South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney.
With those numbers, Ealy likely solidify himself as a first-round prospect, perhaps to the Browns — who pulled him aside to set up a private workout — at No. 26.
“It’s very important to keep our tradition here and also to go out and represent Mizzou as well as it should be,” Ealy said when asked about the importance of going in the first round.
Meanwhile, Sam lowered his 40 time to 4.72, improved by two reps in the 225-pound bench press (19) and raised his vertical to 30 inches — still not elite numbers athletically, but a marked improvement from the NFL Combine.
Of course, Max Copeland (6-2, 266) stole the show, shedding more than 50 pounds and working out at fullback. He displayed solid pass-catching skills during Franklin’s audition.
“It was kind of like riding a bike,” said Copeland, who played tight end in high school, “but this bike is a little bit faster and I’m going downhill, so I need to wear my helmet.”
Wide receiver L’Damian Washington, who ran an unofficial 4.39 40-yard dash, also worked out along with linebacker Donovan Bonner, tackle Justin Britt, wide receivers Jaleel Clark and Marcus Lucas, cornerbacks E.J. Gaines and Randy Ponder, running back Henry Josey and safety Matt White.