As football players of all shapes and sizes stood in a single-file line in the DakotaDome weight room last week, nerves were at an all-time high. One short jump or missed step could negatively affect a lifelong dream: to play
Last week, three USD football players participated in NFL Pro Day, an event held at many college campuses nationwide for NFL scouts to recruit high-performing football players.
Seniors Jet Moreland, Tyson Graham and Miles Bergner showed off their skills at this year’s event on March 29.
A look at Pro Day
NFL Pro Day derives from the NFL Scouting Combine, an invitation-only event allowing top college football players to audition in front of all 32 teams.
Atiba Bradley, the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for USD football, said the combine is extremely difficult to be invited to, so pro day is another option for those wanting to play professionally.
“Pro day is an opportunity for guys that have interest in the NFL, and the NFL has an interest in them,” Baradley said. “Obviously, there’s a big NFL Combine, but because that’s an NFL-driven deal, that’s usually your bigger programs like Minnesota, Nebraska, Alabama, the Power 5 Conferences. In order to be invited from a school like us, you have to be through the roof, and so pro days are done to give those guys exposure like the combine.”
Although the players participating in pro day weren’t invited to be involved in the combine, a school’s pro day is just as intensive.
At some point within the season, all 32 NFL teams inquire about USD players. Once USD coaches refer a player, scouts will then watch the player’s film and make a recommendation for pro day.
“We don’t just want random people here participating, so we make it a scout recommendation,” Bradley said. “We don’t take a recommendation from a college coach because those guys are biased. We don’t take it from an agent because those guys obviously have an agenda. The scout could care one way or another, so he can legitimize a kid.”
While this is generally how the process works, Miles Bergner, a senior kicker for USD, said he figured he’d be participating in pro day before he received a scout recommendation.
“As soon as I was invited to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, I kind of knew,” Bergner said. “After being there I had a few teams recommend me, at least ones that interviewed me while I was there.”
While NFL scouts can contact players through their agents, pro day is an opportunity for them to witness a player’s abilities in person. Those skills are tested through standard events like the 40-yard dash, bench press at 225 pounds, vertical jump, broad jump and various positional drills.
Senior Tyson Graham, a defensive back for USD, was confident in the results he put out during pro day.
“A lot of my results were some of my personal bests, but they also rank above average in my position compared to some combine members,” Graham said. “I felt I did pretty good, and I ran pretty well. I put my best out there.”
Graham’s performance landed him meetings with the NFL teams who attended the USD pro day.
“I met with the Lions, Packers, Saints and the 49ers, and then I worked out with the 49ers and did drills with the Saints,” Graham said.
Graham already has a workout scheduled with the Miami Dolphins later this week and may have an additional workout with the 49ers.
Like Graham, senior linebacker Jet Moreland also turned out some personal bests.
“I had quite a few bests. Bench, I would’ve liked to do better, but it was my best, and I’ve never jumped that high of a vertical or jumped broad jump as far,” Moreland said. “When you test in things like that, some things can go well, and some things may not go as well as you’d hope them to, but I think it went as good as it could have given the circumstances.”
Moreland said his nerves prevented a good night’s rest, and the early wake-up call made it difficult to warm up properly. However, his results still
“Jet’s vertical was surprising. Good surprising,” Bergner said. “He usually jumps around a 35 and he jumped a 37. I don’t know where two extra inches came from, but he
A tough road ahead
Despite all three athletes producing good results, Bradley said getting into the NFL is still a difficult task. Bradley said in over a 10 year period, 87 percent of draft picks have come from the Power 5 Conferences, making the odds for anyone outside of those conferences much smaller.
For those players who decide to pursue a professional career, Bradley said it’s a “difficult game.”
“Some guys want to chase the dream and go after it, but you’ve got to commit to it knowing, in the end, you might get nothing in return,” Bradley said. “It’s all about what team needs what. It’s supply and demand, and sometimes it’s about more than just being a good player.”
At the start of regular season, teams can only have 53 people on the roster. So although a player may be drafted or picked up as a restricted free agent, this doesn’t guarantee their spot on a team.
“Aggressively throughout preseason, they cut. So after one week, they may say you’re done,” Bradley said. “You could train your butt off, but you never really know.”
Despite this, Graham said he has good chances of being drafted.
“Right now they have me going late sixth, early seventh round in the draft,” Graham said. “There’s a lot of interest, but you could work out for all these teams and never really know if they’ll pick you.”
Bergner had different views on his likelihood of being drafted.
“I’m not getting drafted. If I get drafted, it’ll be a total surprise,” Bergner said. “Most likely undrafted free agent is the way for me. I’m realistic, so if it happens it happens, great. If it doesn’t I’m not going to cry
Although Bergner may not get drafted, there’s still a chance after the draft to make it on an NFL team.
“There are a lot of others ways to get into the NFL that a lot of people don’t know about, especially with the Players Association and things, so I might look into something like that,” Bergner said.
Moreland shares a similar viewpoint with Bergner.
“Obviously everyone has dreams and aspirations, but all and all, it’s about the experience and training for it,” Moreland said. “I think it’d be awesome, but let’s be honest here, my
chances are low.”
Though he doesn’t see an immediate NFL future, Moreland’s attitude remains lighthearted, and he isn’t closing the door on playing for
Moreland attributes his success to the opportunities provided from the university and football staff.
“The program is phenomenal at USD. Both of the coaching staffs I’ve played under have brilliant minds when it comes to football, and they’re also just great guys,” Moreland said. “All and all, the whole program has prepared me well, not only for football but a future in business
Graham said his time at USD has been the final step towards a possible professional career.
“I’ve always been inspired by watching NFL football at a young age and looking up to those guys and just wanting to be in that position someday,” Graham said. “Now that it’s this close, it’s kind of like a dream come true.”
The NFL Draft begins on April 27.