KALAMAZOO, MI - A dozen Western Michigan seniors entered the Broncos football Pro Day with something to prove in front of NFL scouts from all 32 teams, and rarely did they disappoint.
Jarvion Franklin, Darius Phillips and Asantay Brown each had different reasons for why Wednesday was crucial for their pro prospects, but all of them left an impression by day's end.
After weighing in a 239 pounds at the NFL Combine in late February, Franklin trimmed down to 231 pounds for WMU's Pro Day, and showed off a much slimmer, speedier athlete, cutting his 40-yard dash time from 4.63 to 4.45 seconds.
"I feel the Pro Day had a lot more ups than the Combine," Franklin said.
"For one thing, I weighed in at 239 at the combine. That was completely unexpected, and I was surprised in a bad way." I had to make sure that I really left my mark here at the Pro Day, so I've been eating nothing but whole wheat, and my girl's been breaking her back to make sure that I've been eating right, but I've definitely been working hard and it really paid off weighing in at 231 today and being able to run.
"I felt like I had even more, and if I had another chance to run another, I think it would've been even faster."
Phillips missed the Senior Bowl in January with an ankle injury and hadn't fully recovered by the NFL Combine, where he clocked in at 4.54 in the 40.
With three weeks of rest under his belt, Phillips blazed a 4.40-second 40-yard dash time. His 32.5-inch vertical leap was less than his goal of 37 inches, but the jump still raised over $845 for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital through his Pledge It campaign.
"I feel like I came out here and finally got the chance to perform, unlike the Senior Bowl and the Combine," Phillips said. "I was excited just because I know people were giving me trash because I ran a 4.5-whatever-it-was at the Combine, so just to come out here and run it faster kind of boosted my confidence."
Unlike Phillips and Franklin, senior linebacker/safety Asantay Brown didn't receive a Combine invitation, so his Pro Day performance marked the first chance for NFL scouts to see him run through drills up close.
The versatile defender posted team-best results in the vertical jump (38 inches) and the broad jump (10-foot-6), while clocking a 4.57 40 and bench pressing 225 pounds 16 times.
"I didn't really think about the time, I wanted to focus on doing everything correctly and being the best I could be because I didn't want to hold my head too high after I got a good number," Brown said. "I heard it, then pushed it to the back of my head and focused on what's next."
Fellow linebacker Caleb Bailey also didn't let the Combine snub bring him down, as the senior put up 16 reps on the bench press, a 37-inch vertical, a 10-foot-1 broad jump and a 4.64 40.
The only test offensive lineman Chukwuma Okorafor participated in was the bench press, where his 20 reps edged his Combine output by one.
The 6-foot-6, 321-pound lineman also spent nearly an hour performing blocking drills with guest participant Matthew Modreske, a Northwood University senior and Hopkins, Mich., native, who had the day's best performance on the bench press (24).
"I thought it went well," Okorafor said. "I just came out here to show people I could move and that I had that power and some strength, so I think it went pretty good."