For many college football players, April is a month to rest, work out and prepare for the following season. Seniors might use this time to finish classes and get ready for life after college.
However, for a select few players, April brings NFL Pro Day, making it one of the most crucial months of their lives. Their performance in a 225-pound bench press, 40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump, shuttle run, three-cone drill and position-specific drills could determine whether or not they play football professionally.
Ball State hosted its Pro Day April 9 at Scheumann Stadium and the new Scheumann Family Indoor Practice Facility. Wide receiver Antwan Davis, running back Caleb Huntley, long snapper Joseph Greenwood and linebacker Jacob White took part in a full workout in front of scouts. Senior cornerback Antonio Phillips weighed in and was measured but did not participate in the other drills due to an injury.
White finished his collegiate career in 2019 but didn’t get a Pro Day in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns. He finished his final season with a team-leading 117 tackles and an interception.
“It feels good to get back in front of the champs and compete one more time,” White said. “It has, obviously, been an interesting year, but I couldn’t really get any closure [from] not getting a Pro Day last year. I stayed in shape, and it is an honor to get to compete in the new indoor facility and the sleeping giant that is Ball State Football.”
While his main position in college was linebacker, White participated in drills as a fullback and long snapper. He said he believes his ability to play different positions can go a long way in attracting teams.
“Long snapping was the thing for me,” White said. “I want to prove my versatility. I can be three players in one. I am not just one-dimensional — I do a lot of things well. I can play linebacker, fullback and long snapper. I want teams to know that I save money for the team and I am a value add for teams.”
While White used 2020 to stay in shape and prepare for Pro Day, Huntley prepared for a final season to prove to NFL teams he is worthy of playing professionally.
In just three games last season, Huntley rushed for 437 yards and six touchdowns — both good for second place in the Mid-American Conference after three weeks. He said he believes his performance in the shortened season helped his draft stock.
“I feel like [last season] put me in a great position to be seen by scouts and NFL clubs,” Huntley said. “I know I have something to bring to the table for any NFL team, so I think that is the biggest thing. I feel like I did everything I needed to — I showed toughness leading into today and proving that I can do the little things.”
Huntley said his ability to break tackles and go for big runs was one of the areas in his game he believes makes him attractive to teams. However, there was one area in his game scouts criticized.
“I wanted to go in there and do the best I can to showcase my abilities,” Huntley said. “I wanted to specifically showcase my ability to catch in the backfield. That was the biggest knock on my game. I feel like I did those well today. I am proud of myself because of that.”
On the defensive side, Phillips said his ball skills is one area he believes will catch the eyes of NFL teams. When the ball is in the air, he said, he feels more like a wide receiver as opposed to a cornerback. He also considers his tackling a major strength. There are also some areas of his game he said he wants to improve to help his draft stock.
“I have been trying to focus on some of the weaknesses in my game,” Phillips said. “I have been trying to get bigger, stronger and faster. I have also tried to sharpen my football IQ. I am working on getting faster in a lot of my breaks — being more technical at the line with my hands, feet and eyes.”
Every player had a different way of preparation for Pro Day. Huntley said he likes to mentally and spiritually prepare himself before any competition.
“I try not to get too high — I try to stay mellowed out,” Huntley said. “I try not to use all of my energy up before I have to go out there and perform. I just pray before I do anything — I leave everything else up to God and compete.”
Phillips said he approached Pro Day like he would any game during the season, which helped ease his nerves.
“I look at it, basically, like a game day,” Phillips said. “You have to physically and mentally get ready. I am just doing what I have been doing since I was 6.”
Ultimately, White said he and his former teammates can only be the best version of themselves and control their own destiny.
“This day has been rolling in my mind for a long time,” White said. “I understood that I have to wait and stay in shape. I also understand that, when I look back in 20 years, I will be happy that I waited another year. I will have peace with everything, and I control what I can control.”