On Tuesday, the Longhorns hosted representatives from all 32 NFL teams at the Texas Pro Day, including Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin, GM Kevin Colbert, and the rest of the Steeler defensive staff, as they watched draft-eligible former 'Horns work out in preparation for the upcoming NFL draft.
While former star cornerback Aaron Wililams worked to improve on his 40 time from the NFL combine, as did fellow corner Chykie Brown, several Longhorns who weren't invited to the Combine also hoped to impress scouts. And one former Longhorn did his ex-teammates a solid by flying in to pitch around the pigskin for the first time in a minute.
The big news of the day unquestionably surrounded Aaron Williams. After turning in a solid but unimpressive 4.52 40 at the combine, Williams needed to post an improved time to solidify his status at the end of the first round, beginning of the second round. Consider that mission accomplished.
Compared to the conditions in Indianapolis, the artificial turf at the Moncrief-Neuhaus athletic complex is always going to run a bit faster, which explains part of the unofficial 4.36 40 Williams ran on Tuesday. Adjusted for the field conditions at the combine, Williams would have run a 4.44, still .08 of a second faster than the time he posted only weeks ago and all the more impressive considering he weighed in at just over 200 pounds.
Though Williams said that no teams have talked to him directly about playing the safety position, there was speculation after the combine that the former college cornerback may have to make that switch at the next level. His blazing 40 on Tuesday will help mitigate those concerns, as did a stronger performance showing off his ball skills, a question mark for scouts after failing to record an interception his junior season. Williams admitted afterward that turning in such a strong time helped him relax during the position drills that followed, where he made the strong plays on the football that defined his sophomore season.
Another Texas cornerback aided his cause on Tuesday, as Chykie Brown was clocked at another sub-4.0 40 at 4.37, though other scouts him higher and his other attempt came in at 4.47. Still, Brown was helped his draft stock with his fast times, a strong workout that showed off his other physical skills that have never been in question, and better ball skills after dropping three passes at the combine.
Fortunately for the other Texas cornerback, Curtis Brown was able to stand on his NFL combine times and overall workout after having to stop during position drills due to a recent sickness from which he has not recovered. Brown did well enough in his combine workout that Mack Brown believes his inability to do so Tuesday won't negatively impact his draft status.
After an impressive combine that featured a 4.65 40 and a defensive lineman combine record in the 3-cone drill, Sam Acho elected to only work at the position drills to show off his ability in coverage for teams like the Steelers that will probably look at him as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
Both Tomlin and Colbert spent time after the workout speaking with Aaron Williams' father, Anthony, as well as Sam Acho and his father. The Steelers have drafted Longhorns in the past, including Casey Hampton, Limas Sweed, and Tony Hills and have the 31st pick in the draft.
Several Longhorns who weren't invited to the combine turned in impressive workout numbers. In particular, Greg Smith followed up an impressive Senior Bowl performance with a 39.5-inch vertical and solid 4.78 40. At wide receiver, James Kirkendoll was clocked on one 40 attempt at 4.32, though other attempts were in the 4.4 range. John Chiles also had a 39.5-inch vertical and ran well with attempts in the 4.4 range at 210 pounds.
Offensive lineman Michael Huey may draw some looks as an undrafted free agent after putting up 35 official reps on the bench press, a number that would have been tops at the Combine. Additionally, Huey posted a solid 5.2 and had a solid 33-inch vertical. Huey's senior season ended against Baylor in late October with a torn MCL and meniscus in his right knee and besides his rehab from that injury, Huey has been working at center to give himself the versatility to play all three interior line positions.
Clearly, pure athleticism was not the problem in 2010. Ladies and gentlemen, Texas Football 2010, where athleticism is less than half the battle!
For Smith, Kirkendoll, and others hoping to make an impression on those in attendance, a major part of their workout would not have been possible without a little help from a friend, a former teammate to be precise.
Without a collective bargaining agreement in place, the combination of current NFL players being unable to throw to draft-eligible prospects and a new NCAA rule dictating that only draft-eligible players can work out for scouts created a perfect storm of stringent requirements. Only former quarterback Sherrod Harris, who gave up football before his senior season last fall, was eligible.
Mack Brown asked Harris to fly in on Friday night from Arizona where he now works and despite having not thrown a football in anything closely resembling practice conditions in seven months, Harris took the opportunity to help out his former teammates. So despite several overthrows that caused Harris to publicly apologize to the parents of Chiles, Kirkendoll, and Smith, all three expressed their thanks for Harris' selfless act -- otherwise the three players hoping to draw attention from scouts would not have been able to demonstrate their pass-catching abilities.
As usual, a handful of former Longhorns were in attendance, though there were not allowed to speak with the representatives of their own teams. Derrick Johnson, Brian Orakpo, Michael Huff, Lamarr Houston, Roddrick Muckelroy, Tim Crowder, Rodrique Wright, Justin Blalock, Tarell Brown, and Aaron Ross were all reported in as in attendance.