Fifteen former University of Missouri football players participated in Missouri’s Pro Day Thursday in their last chance for national exposure before the National Football League draft. The players participated in drills similar to the NFL Combine, such as the 40 yard dash and 225 lbs. bench press.
All 32 NFL teams were represented at the event, including Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. National focus was on Michael Sam and Kony Ealy. Sam sought to improve his subpar numbers at the combine and continue to improve his draft stock, as he is seeking to become the first openly gay player in the NFL. Sam’s agent Joe Barkett believes Sam would be able to mesh inside the NFL and locker room environment well.
“Mike’s overcome so much in his life that making his announcement and doing these drills and fitting in the locker room will be easy for him compared to anything else he’s ever had to do,” Barkett said.
Sam showed improvement in every event from the NFL combine, most notably in his vertical jump as he increased it by 6.5 inches to 30 inches.
Ealy was closely watched by NFL scouts all day. He is projected to be a late first-round pick in the draft, the highest projection for any Missouri player this draft.
Pro Day also served as a chance for players who were not invited to the combine to perform in front of scouts. Former starting quarterback James Franklin relished the opportunity to play in front of NFL teams and coaches, even if they were there for someone else.
“In high school, that’s kinda how I started to get recruited,” Franklin said. “Scouts would go for other teams and other players and that’s how I got attention. It’s a good opportunity for everybody, feeding off everyone else’s attention and be able to get some exposure for the guys that didn’t go to the combine.”
The NFL draft will take place on May 8-10 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.