Scouts from National Football League teams know Abilene is more than a place to stop for barbeque, steak and breakfast burritos. In recent years, it’s become a place to shop for future pro players on display at the Wildcats’ annual Pro Day at Wally Bullington Football Practice Facility.
The latest crop participated yesterday, with 11 teams sending scouts with stopwatches and notepads to take notes on a wind-blown day. And wide receiver Taylor Gabriel and running back Charcandrick West did not disappoint.
In fact, the two seniors each ran eye-opening times of 4.27 in the 40-yard dash.
See acusports.com for Lance Fleming’s report on their and eight other former Wildcats tested yesterday by scouts from the Cleveland Browns, San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Oakland Raiders, St. Louis Rams and Houston Texans.
Last fall, Gabriel finished his sparkling career ranked second in ACU history in catches (215), yards (3,027) and touchdown receptions (27), and fourth in all-purpose yards (3,880). West is the only player to have a career with 2,000 rushing, 1,000 receiving and 750 kickoff return yards. He is fifth in all-purpose yards (3,823) and fourth in touchdowns (35).
Bernard Scott and Johnny Knox can be credited with putting ACU football back on the NFL’s radar in 2009, when both were invited to the league’s Combine in Indianapolis, Ind. With ESPN and other sports media chronicling each workout, wide receiver Knox ran one of the fastest 40-yard dash times in Combine history – 4.25 unofficially and 4.34 officially – and Scott showed speed and agility on par with running backs from far larger universities. Weeks later, the Chicago Bears made Knox their pick in the fifth round and Scott was drafted in the sixth by Cincinnati.
NFL scouts from 17 teams were at ACU’s Pro Day in 2011. Fifteen were present in 2012 but only one came in 2013 (the Dallas Cowboys), before the crowd swelled again yesterday. Other universities holding Pro Day workouts around the nation Friday included Ohio State (where scouts from a near-record 31 teams tested 15 players), Arizona State, Arkansas State, Northern Illinois, Southern Mississippi, South Alabama and Pittsburg State (Kan.). Earlier this week, 21 scouts tested eight players at TCU. According to legendary NFL talent evaluator Gil Brandt, former vice president of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys, the ratio of team scouts to players this week at various universities included Wisconsin (20:10), Arizona (25 :15), Illinois (18:5), Furman (15:5), Northern Arizona (12:13) and Central Michigan (10:11).
Scouts from 23 teams were present at Texas A&M’s Pro Day this week to watch just one player: tackle Jake Matthews. Notably absent were quarterback Johnny Manziel and wide receiver Mike Evans. Manziel merits his own Pro Day March 27, which Evans will attend. Matthews, Manziel and Evans are projected to be first-round selections when the NFL Draft takes place May 8-10.
It’s difficult and perhaps impossible to relate NFL draft choices and free agent signees Pro Day attendance, but suffice to say that scouts only spend time where talent is known to reside.