For some, pro day is a way to improve on subpar performances in certain events at the NFL Scouting Combine. For others, it is a time to introduce yourself, both personally and through your play, to the NFL scouts and coaches on hand.
No matter what the goal was, the 10 former Ohio State players currently entered in the 2015 NFL draft had a chance to reach it Friday morning with OSU’s annual pro day event at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
At one end of the spectrum is wide receiver Devin Smith, who currently projects as a first-round pick in many mock drafts. Smith, who performed at the combine in Indianapolis last month, said he was using the opportunity to show off some of the finer points of his skill set.
“I was really just trying to hush the critics of me, that I’m only able to run one route,” Smith said. “I thought it was really important to go out there and run all the routes, show them that I’ve improved and can run all the routes.”
Smith said in addition to route running, he wanted to be able to showcase his ability to corral the ball on a regular basis.
“A lot of teams felt that I’m not very consistent with my hands, so I made sure I did that,” he said. “I put a lot of work and training into working on my hands and my coordination.”
On the other end, offensive lineman Darryl Baldwin, who was not a starter for coach Urban Meyer until his redshirt-senior season, looked to get his name out there and get one step closer to the NFL.
“You just try to start one year, and now you’re here trying to impress NFL teams,” Baldwin said. “It’s great. It’s a dream come true.”
Despite a total of 76 representatives from the NFL in attendance at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, including members of all 32 teams, Baldwin said he was able to block out most of the pressure coming from the most important job interview of his life.
“I didn’t (feel the pressure). After we got the bench out of the way, and the first 40 (yard dash), I was just more relaxed and everything just seemed better,” Baldwin said.
Among the 76 NFL representatives in attendance were Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Todd Haley, Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis and Minnesota Vikings general manager and OSU alumnus Rick Spielman.
Tomlin was accompanied by current Pittsburgh and former OSU linebacker Ryan Shazier.
Another participant Friday was cornerback Doran Grant. Grant said he has attended past pro days to support his teammates, but he still did not know exactly what to expect.
“You’re the performer. You’re the one doing the workout. You’re the one interviewing for the job with all this NFL personnel,” Grant said. “I was looking at (redshirt-sophomore cornerback) Eli (Apple), how he was watching at me, and I said, ‘That’s how I used to be.’”
Grant said he is still not sure where he might go in the draft. The Akron native said all that matters to him is making an NFL roster, in any capacity.
He said has talked to the Oakland Raiders, Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Steelers, amongst other organizations.
Baldwin said he does not know what the future will hold for him, but he appreciates days like Friday to give him a chance to work toward his dream.
“Whether it’s going late-round draft or free agent, it doesn’t really matter to me. Just getting the chances,” he said.
Baldwin was not aware of his numbers Friday, as they were not released to attendees outside of the scouts, but said he believes he performed well. The Solon, Ohio, product said he has an interview scheduled with the Carolina Panthers at the end of the month.
While 2013 OSU graduates such as offensive lineman Marcus Hall, wide receiver Chris Fields and kicker Drew Basil made their returns to the WHAC on Friday, so did one player who has been away for quite a bit longer.
Troy Smith, who won the Heisman Trophy in 2006 as a senior at OSU, returned to throw passes in receiving drills for tight end Jeff Heuerman and receivers Evan Spencer, Fields and Devin Smith.
Devin Smith said it was a good experience to work with the former NFL starting quarterback.
“It was great. Having a Heisman Trophy winner come out here and really giving us a good look, so we appreciate it and, and he’s always wanted to do stuff for us,” he said.
In addition to Devin Smith, Baldwin, Heuerman, Spencer and Grant, the other recent OSU graduates participating Friday were defensive linemen Michael Bennett and Steve Miller, kicker Kyle Clinton, long snapper Russell Doup and linebacker Curtis Grant.
Doran Grant said, while he enjoys the pressure and intensity of the pre-draft workouts, he is getting restless waiting for the draft to begin April 30.
“It’s been just like everybody told us,” he said. “They said it’s a long process. That’s what makes it hard, is how long from January until draft day. That’s the hardest part, the wait.”