Former ASU star defensive tackle Justin Blash, left, nears the finish line of the 40-yard dash as two NFL scouts time him during the Rams’ Pro Day on Monday. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY — The field of dreams came to Albany State on Monday afternoon when a group of NFL scouts showed up to watch Pro Day workout for graduating seniors at ASU.
“This is my Super Bowl,’’ said Justin Blash, a defensive tackle who could almost taste the NFL. “It’s a dream come true. I feel like it’s right here in my hands. This is, like, the biggest day of my life. It’s my personal Super Bowl.’’
Blash has a chance, and he knows it. He already has an agent and worked out in Virginia to prepare for the Pro Day.
“I’ve talked to people and they’re saying sixth or seventh round,’’ Blash said of where he’s projected to be picked in April. “Or I could go as a free agent. I’ll go as a free agent if I have to.’’
Scouts from the New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants and Kansas City Chiefs attended the Pro Day, and the four scouts asked Blash, ASU running back Nathan Hoyte and receiver Ronnie Tubbs to stay after the workouts to take the Wonderlic test.
The Wonderlic test assess the aptitude for learning and problem-solving. Those three were told that even if they weren’t drafted that the four teams did have interest in them.
Hoyte had the best time in the 40-yard dash (4.47 with the wind), the best broad jump (10-feet, 3 inches) and the highest vertical leap (33 1/2 inches) and was impressive all day as the players ran through a 40-yard dash, a short shuttle (athletes run back and forth five and 10 yards in a tight area), the L-drill (which is another tight run back and forth while circling cones), a standing broad jump, a bench press test in which the players pressed 225 pounds as many times as possible and the vertical leap.
Blash had some impressive moments, running a 4.9 wind-aided time in the 40, which is notable because Blash is 6-foot-5 and weighs 320 pounds. He bench pressed the 225-pound weight 29 times — the best of the day.
“I feel pretty good about my day,’’ Blash said. “I think my stock went up. I wasn’t nervous (before the Pro Day) because I had already put in the work, and it was just time for me to perform. I put in enough work. I just want to play ball.’’
Then he got a little nervous when the day started.
“They told me we were doing everything in alphabetical order and I was first in the 40, and I got a little nervous when they told me that,’’ he said.
Hoyte said it wasn’t exactly his “Super Bowl,’’ but it was a huge day in his life.
“I wouldn’t call it my Super Bowl,’’ he said. “The Super Bowl is a one-day thing. This is a career (opportunity). This is very important — the most important day. It’s my Pro Day.’’
Hoyte, who rushed for 1,001 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Rams last fall, said he started working out and getting ready for the Pro Day right after the season.
“I knew Pro Day was coming in late February or early March, so I started training in December right after the season ended,” he said. “I worked hard and really wasn’t nervous. I probably got a little nervous at 11:30 (Monday morning). But I just try to live in the moment and not make too much out of it. If you make it bigger than it is, then you might choke.’’
ASU doesn’t usually have a Pro Day, but Hoyte said he wasn’t surprised.
“We brought in a lot of (NFL) scouts this year to look at the players on this team,’’ he said. “We had more than 20 scouts come in, so it was expected they would have a Pro Day this year.’’
The scouts know that talent can be found anywhere.
“We go to all the Pro Days,’’ said Jim Monos, a scout with the Saints who was at Valdosta State earlier before coming to ASU. “I remember (ASU quarterback) A.J. McKenna from here. He had a Pro Day workout at Morehouse, and I saw him there a few years ago. It’s our job to look at everybody.
“There are small-school players all over our league. For kids who don’t go to the combines, their schools set up a Pro Day. Everybody gets a chance.’’