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Football: Former players impress at Pro Day

Andrew Gastelum | Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Former Irish receiver Michael Floyd was feeling the love at Notre Dame’s Pro Day on Tuesday, eagerly chatting it up with Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith following Floyd’s impressive workout at the Loftus Center.

“He just said I did a good job,” Floyd said with a grin. “Just to keep working hard and just stay focused.”

Smith joined Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis and San Diego Chargers general manager A.J. Smith in attendance, among a multitude of scouts to watch the six-foot-three receiver haul in passes from Carolina Panthers and former Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen.

Clausen and Floyd combined for 16 touchdowns and well over a thousand yards in their two seasons together. Tuesday afternoon, their chemistry was on full display, as Clausen connected with Floyd on every pass.

“I am in a great position to reach my goal of playing in the NFL,” Floyd said. “And hopefully I put [myself] in a good position to be picked by a team. And I am just glad that I stayed [at Notre Dame] and get to graduate in May.

“It’s kind of crazy. I never really thought I would be in this position. But I worked hard, and the people in my life worked hard to get me to this point.”

Unofficially, in front of NFL scouts, it was a Pro Day of sorts for Clausen, who lost his starting job last season to Offensive Rookie of the Year Cam Newton. But ultimately, Clausen said he welcomed the opportunity to come back and play catch with his old target.

“I talked to Mike [Floyd] and he wanted me to come back and throw for his Pro Day,” Clausen said. “And I said I would have to make a few phone calls and I had my agent talk to the Panthers. And I talked to coaches here and they all said okay. It was a good opportunity for me to come back and get back with Mike and throwing with some of the guys.”

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock, who was also in attendance, said Floyd looked like a top-10 pick in April’s NFL Draft.

“In my book [Floyd is a top-10 pick]. If you take the off-the-field stuff away and just watch the tape, he compares very favorable to [Oklahoma State’s] Justin Blackmon,” Mayock said. “In my opinion, Jacksonville at No. 7 starts his interest. I don’t think he gets past [No.] 16 with the Jets. Then I think there are some teams down there like Chicago at [No.] 19 who would love to have Michael Floyd.”

Meanwhile, Mayock came away impressed with former Irish safety Harrison Smith’s athleticism and smarts.

“I think he is a solid second round pick, and if somebody got stuck at the end of the first round and needed a good football player, I wouldn’t be stunned if he went,” Mayock said.

Smith said the process of preparing for the draft has been a cycle of workouts from the day the season ended.

“It’s just working out every day,” the former captain said. “I’ve worked out from the [Champs Sports Bowl] to the Senior Bowl, from the Senior Bowl to the [NFL] Combine, and from the Combine until now. And now it’s going through visits and interviews with teams. So it’s a hectic process.”

Former Irish cornerbacks Robert Blanton and Gary Gray, offensive lineman Taylor Dever and Trevor Robinson, linebacker Darius Fleming, kicker David Ruffer and running back Jonas Gray also participated in Pro Day.

Mayock said Fleming and Blanton did the most for their respective draft stock. Fleming surprised scouts by running the 40-yard dash in 4.54 seconds, good enough for the third-best among linebackers at the NFL Combine.

“[Blanton and Fleming] both ran in the 4.5 range,” Mayock said. “I have been a believer for a long time. I think Blanton is a real quality safety prospect. Some people think that is a cut but it is not. It’s a complement … Darius Fleming to me is underrated. He is one of those tweener-size guys at 247-pounds…He is more explosive than teams thought. He will be a core special teams player.”

 

Contact Andrew Gastelum at agastel1@nd.edu