Former Tigers Hope "Pro Day" Equals Payday
The drills were held at Mizzou's football practice facility, and a few former Tigers hope the familiar turf helped them turn their professional dreams into a reality.
In a game of inches, scouts scrutinized every throw, catch, leap, and sprint down to milisecond. The workouts are particularly important for players like former Mizzou quarterback Brad Smith and linebacker Derrick Ming. Both are considered "tweeners" by NFL draft experts. While their athletic versatility is attractive, the draft has been unkind in the past to players lacking a clearly defined role at the next level.
Smith clearly has the athletic ability and speed to compete with the professionals. Despite becoming the first player in division 1-A history to pass for 8,000 yards and run for 4,000 yards in a career, there are doubts about Smith's potential as an NFL quarterback due to his propensity to make plays with his legs instead of his arm. Thursday was an opportunity for Smith to abate or confirm any concerns about his passing ability.
"I wanted to prove my times in a couple of the drills and go out and make the [good] throws that I made at the [Indianapolis] combine," said Smith.
Smith said scouts have been "half and half" in terms of his expected professional role. The successful transition of other versatile college quarterbacks, such as Antwan Randle El and Hines Ward of the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, may ultimately help Smith on draft day. NFL teams aren't ruling out putting Smith under center, but also envision multiple roles for the Mizzou standout.
"Some teams want to bring me in as a quarterback and have me develop as a quarterback and [also] play receiver. So it's a little bit of everything right now," Smith elaborated.
A more common transition is that of college linebacker to NFL fullback or tight end. Former Missouri linebacker Derrick Ming prefers his traditional role as a defender, but hopes teams see enough potential to draft him for any position in the NFL.
"I worked out as a fullback and a linebacker, so what ever opportunity opens up for me I'll be there to take it," said former Missouri linebacker Derrick Ming. "[Scouts said] I was capable of hopefully getting drafted [to be a linebacker], that I had skills, and I should be up there with the rest of the guys [on draft day]."
Missouri Western lineman Scorpio Horn also showcased his skills at MU's Pro Day. Scorpio's older brother, NFL wide receiver Joe Horn, was in attendance Thursday to support his younger and much larger sibling. Standing 6'2" tall and tipping the scales at 272 lbs, Scorpio hopes he has the size to be viewed as a legitimate NFL prospect. While the workouts feature written exams such as the Wonderlic test, Joe Horn says these types of combines usually emphasize raw physical ability rather than intelligence or gameday skill.
"You want to show your agility, your speed, quickness and stuff like that because they obviously have your game film and they know what you can do as far as physically," Horn said.
For those players needing additional opportunities to exhibit their talent, the next workout for scouts at Mizzou is scheduled for sometime next month. The NFL draft will be held the last weekend of April.