The Virginia Tech football program saw a small group of its players conclude their eligibility this past fall, and now, nearly every member of that group harbors hopes of extending their playing careers for just a little longer.
That group gathered on the Tech campus Wednesday to participate in the football program’s annual “Pro Day” – a day that allows them to show off their abilities in front of NFL scouts. Representatives from all 32 NFL teams visited campus to gather information in hopes of finding a player or players to help attain future successes.
The day consisted of the scouts measuring heights and weighing Tech’s players, while also testing the group in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump and bench press. Selected players participated in individual drills at the Tech Indoor Practice Facility.
The Tech player receiving the most attention Wednesday was tight end Bucky Hodges, who fared well at the NFL Scouting Combine held in Indianapolis, Indiana a few weeks ago. Hodges ran a 4.57-second 40-yard dash in Indianapolis and recorded a 39-inch vertical jump.
But the scouts want to know if Hodges, who played wide receiver this past season, can block. He spent a lot of Wednesday’s session with his hand on the ground in a three-point stance, as the scouts searched for answers in regards to his blocking ability.
“I just don’t have any film with my hands in the dirt,” Hodges said. “I was asked to play receiver this past year. I just wasn’t asked to do it, so I know they are curious to see me do it. With my work ethic and my hunger, I know it is something I can accomplish.”
Most mock drafts project Hodges as a late first-round or a second-round pick. Representatives from the New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals put him through the paces Wednesday, and he has meetings scheduled with the Cleveland Browns and the New Orleans Saints.
Overall, for Hodges, the day went well.
“I was able to show them that I am capable of getting in a three-point stance,” he said. “I was able to show them that I improved my football [abilities] and improved since the Combine. I showed my versatility running different routes that receivers usually run. I just wanted to show that I could do it all.”
One player who really looked forward to Wednesday’s Pro Day was Isaiah Ford, who admitted that he performed average at the Combine. In particular, his 40-yard time of 4.61 seconds was subpar for him.
“No, not at all,” Ford said when asked if he was pleased with his Combine performance. “I think anyone who knows me probably thought the same thing. I just wanted to compete better. I know I can do better. That was the most frustrating thing.
“I put in an extreme amount of work into anything I do, and I felt like I was doing myself a disservice at the Combine by not showing it. I kind of turned the page on that. I knew I was going to come back here to my house and my home in front of my family and friends, and I had to make a better showing.”
Ford improved his 40 time, running what he said was a 4.51 or a 4.52. He had dropped some weight as well, getting as high as 198 while working out, but checking in at 183.
He said he has no idea where he will end up.
“No, not at all,” Ford said. ““I absolutely hate it. One of my biggest fears is the unknown, not knowing where I am going to be. I am just ready for it to be over, wherever I go. I am just ready to get there and get to work.”
Sam Rogers echoed similar sentiments. Rogers stands as arguably the most intriguing prospect among the Tech contingent because of his versatility. He possesses the ability to play multiple positions.
But so much of the pre-draft process centers on testing – an area that isn’t necessarily Rogers’ strongest. He excels doing football-centric things, and not running the 40 or recording a great vertical jump.
“Now, you can work on more football specific stuff,” Rogers said at the conclusion of Pro Day. “You are basically training like a track athlete – which you can see that I am not. I like working on football stuff … trying to get bigger and stronger with football-specific drills. We did a little bit of that, but you still have to train for a 40 [-yard dash]. I’ll be happy to get out and work on football stuff again.”
Rogers said he hasn’t gotten a ton of feedback on where NFL scouts envision him playing – tailback, fullback or strictly as a special teams standout.
“It’s hard to say where everyone projects me and all that,” he said. “It’s kind of up to them, but they just like my versatility. I can do a lot of different things. They know that I am going to go in there and be a team player and earn a spot.”
Rogers and all of the Tech contingent, including guys like Chuck Clark, Woody Baron, Ken Ekanem, Augie Conte and Jonathan McLaughlin, plan on continuing to train and then meeting with any NFL personnel people who wish to meet with them in the days and weeks leading up to the draft.
“Everyone tells you that 90 percent of your work is already done with film from the last four years, so you just hang your hat on that,” Rogers said. “Right now, you just have to work on the finishing touches and show everyone that you can be a valuable player on their team.”
The NFL Draft will be held April 27-29 in Philadelphia.
TECH PRO DAY TOP RESULTS:
Bench Press: 27 Reps – Augie Conte
Broad Jump: 9’8” – Brenden Motley
Broad Jump: 8’6” – Woody Baron
Hand: 10 3/8 – Ken Ekanem
40: 4.52 – Isaiah Ford
40: 4.51 – Chuck Clark
Wingspan: 82 ¼ – Jon McLaughlin
— Jimmy Robertson,