Duffy Daugherty Football Building
East Lansing, MI
MSU Football’s departing players were given the opportunity on Wednesday to help raise their NFL Draft stock during their annual Pro Day at the Duffy Daughtery Building.
All 32 NFL teams were represented at the event, with many eyes on a number of Spartans looking to continue their careers as professional football players. The participating players conducted similar drills to the NFL Combine — 40-yard dash, 20-yard shuttle, bench press and three-cone drill — as well as individual position drills during the event.
“Great day today here. I thought it was an event and a lot of guys had the opportunity to show what they could do for the next level,” Head Coach Mark Dantonio said. “A lot of guys had great performances so just an exciting day for everyone here at Michigan State.”
There are a number of Spartan players expected to be taken high in the NFL Draft, which takes place April 28-30 in Chicago, including quarterback Connor Cook. MSU’s all-time winningest quarterback only took part in the position drills where he threw passes to wide receivers Aaron Burbridge, AJ Troup, DeAnthony Arnett and Macgarrett Kings Jr., tight end Paul Lang and fullback Trevon Pendleton. Cook was able to connect on a number of deep passes, finally showing his injured right shoulder was 100 percent healthy.
After the workout, Cook said despite having an impressive NFL Combine performance in early February he was still hearing doubts on his ability to put a little mustard on his passes. Those doubts were something he wanted to silence during MSU’s Pro Day.
“I thought I did well. Obviously there were a few sails that I threw, overthrowing some guys but overall I think the main thing was teams wanted to see me drive the ball. Wanted to see my deep ball and I thought I showcased that well,” Cook said. “… My agent told me just hearing from other scouts and hearing from other people ‘can he drive it? Is his arm healthy? Is his shoulder right?’ And that was a big thing I wanted to showcase out here.”
Cook added that he’ll continue working on improving his game before the draft, and will conduct private workouts with the Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers. Cook is projected as a first or second round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Like Cook, offensive lineman Jack Conklin is expected to be drafted early in the April’s draft. Conklin, who forgave his senior season to enter the draft, went through only the position drills on Wednesday after also having a successful Combine.
Conklin has grown from a walk-on to a projected surefire first round pick in April, and on Wednesday he reflected on how surreal this entire experience has been.
“The biggest thing I’ll say I was looking back on a couple of weeks ago on (National) Signing Day I was thinking four years ago today I had no idea where I was going to be, and now I’m about to go to the combine and have a chance to be a first round pick,” Conklin said. “It’s crazy. Thanks Coach D for that and everybody else here. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
While Conklin and Cook — along with Burbridge, center Jack Allen, defensive ends Shilique Calhoun and Lawrence Thomas, and defensive tackle Joel Heath — were able to show off their talents at the NFL Combine in February, a number of Spartans weren’t invited. For those not invited to the combine, Wednesday served as an opportunity to impress and interact with scouts.
Linebacker Darien Harris was one of those players looking to take advantage of the Pro Day experience. He said he understood the importance of the Pro Day and was thankful to perform in front of the NFL representatives.
“Not everybody gets to go to the combine and as much of a disappointment it was for myself I just used it as fuel to get ready for Pro Day,” said Harris, who finished second in the bench press category with 25 reps of 225 pounds. “Used the extra week to prepare and knew that this was my combine out here.
“We are fortunate at Michigan State to get all 32 teams out here showing themselves, and we are able to showcase our abilities in front of everybody. Just to be able to do that is a blessing and a fantastic time.”
Offensive lineman Donavon Clark, cornerback Arjen Colquhoun, safety Chris Laneaux, long snapper Taybor Pepper and outside linebacker Michael Topolinski also participated in MSU’s Pro Day on Wednesday. About 20 former players also were in attendance to support those participating, including Miami Dolphins cornerback Tony Lippett, Chicago Bears running back Jeremy Langford, Minnesota Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes and Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Darqueze Dennard.