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Football: Players get opportunity to showcase talent

Andrew Owens | Friday, April 8, 2011

Nine former Irish players took another step toward attaining their dream of playing in the NFL Thursday at Notre Dame’s annual Pro Day.

Scouts from 28 of the 32 NFL teams attended, and watched as tight end Kyle Rudolph highlighted the day’s action. Rudolph could be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft on April 28, and his performance in the Loftus Center should have helped his chances, NFL Network and NBC analyst Mike Mayock said.

“I think everyone came away from today with a buzz about how good [Rudolph’s] hands are,” Mayock said.

Rudolph had the advantage of receiving passes from Rob Florian, an alumnus of Elder High School, the same school Rudolph attended. Florian later served as the signal caller at the University of Dayton.

“It was awesome,” Rudolph said. “I grew up with Rob, watched him play. He was four years ahead of me in grade school and high school. He was a very successful quarterback at Elder High School in Cincinnati. He’s got a great ball.”

Rudolph said he felt he successfully exhibited his skills for the scouts and hopes he ended any worries about his hamstring injury.

“I’m happy [with the performance],” Rudolph said. “The main objective for me was to get out there and show everyone that I’m healthy and that the hamstring [injury] is a thing of the past.”

Rudolph said he enjoyed seeing the field again after missing the final eight games of the season because of the injury.

“It was great to get out here and to be able to run around and be healthy,” Rudolph said. “It’s been six months [since] my surgery and to be able to come out here and run around like I used to was a lot of fun.”

Cornerback Darrin Walls recorded the top 40-yard dash time, clocking in at 4.39 seconds. The time would have been the third highest at the NFL Combine, held the last week of February..

“I felt pretty good,” Walls said. “I came out here and did some things I wanted to do.

“I don’t feel pressure at all. I didn’t get invited to the Combine, I didn’t get invited to the Senior Bowl, so I came in with a chip on my shoulder. I tried to come in and prove people wrong, so I hope I did that.”

Running back Robert Hughes arrived appearing like a new man, checking in at 226 lbs, 14 pounds lighter than his 2010 playing weight. He recorded 26 repetitions in the bench press, raising the attention of the scouts.

“I felt like I did great,” Hughes said. “I felt like I helped myself.

“I just did cardio and busted my tail, working out twice a day and eating right, changing my diet a lot really helped,” he said. “There’s no question it’s going to change the way I play.”

Running back Armando Allen registered a 4.12 in the 20-yard shuttle, the pro agility drill.

It was the top mark of the day, and would have ranked fifth at the Combine.

Offensive lineman Chris Stewart, linebackers Brian Smith and Kerry Neal, wide receiver Duval Kamara and defensive lineman Ian Williams also participated in the Pro Day.