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NFL Pro Day comes to ND

| Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sixteen old, familiar faces returned to campus for Notre Dame’s NFL Pro Day on Thursday afternoon at Loftus Sports Center.

Scouts from all 32 NFL teams attended the Irish Pro Day, as well as three general managers and two head coaches, including Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Irish senior defensive lineman Kona Schwenke does drills during NFL Pro Day on Thursday at Notre Dame. Jodi Lo | The Observer
Irish senior defensive lineman Kona Schwenke does drills during NFL Pro Day on Thursday at Notre Dame.

The structure of Notre Dame’s smaller Pro Day made the workouts more difficult than the NFL combine, according to former offensive lineman Louis Nix, who also participated in the combine from Feb. 22-25.

“It’s fun when it’s over,” Nix said. “Pro Day made the combine feel like a cake walk. You’re used to 20 guys in front of you, and now it’s just going and going and going. I just got a good workout for the day.”

Two of the 16 Irish attendees, former offensive lineman Mike Golic Jr. and former receiver Robby Toma last played for Notre Dame in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game, and the other 14 returned from last season’s team.

Eight players ran the 40-yard dash: linebacker Carlo Calabrese, linebacker Dan Fox, cornerback Bennett Jackson, quarterback Tommy Rees, defensive lineman Kona Schwenke, offensive lineman Chris Watt, Nix and Toma.

Officially clocked at 5.42 in the dash at the NFL combine, Nix ran again at Notre Dame’s Pro Day, although he focused on other skills during the time between the official workouts.

“Post-combine, I was down in Atlanta with [former defensive lineman and defensive line coach] Chuck Smith just working on technique, trying to perfect my pass rush, and do a little drills to prepare for this,” Nix said. “I did the 40 today, but I didn’t practice it since the combine. I didn’t expect to run a faster time. If I did, I would have walked out the building and just said ‘Screw the rest of it,’ but I’m just trying to do my best, and that’s all I can give them.”

Nix did indeed best his Combine time with a 5.36, and Jackson ran the best time of 4.40, also better than his Combine time of 4.51.

After the 40-yard dash, the players moved to cone drills and finished with position-specific drills.

Former quarterback Tommy Rees threw passes for Toma, former running back George Atkinson III and former receiver T.J. Jones. One scout also pulled Atkinson aside to test his footwork at running back.

Later, former defensive lineman Prince Shembo, who did not record official times in any timed drills, powered through defensive agility drills with Nix and Schwenke, while former offensive linemen Zack Martin, Watt and Golic participated in O-line drills.

After participating in the workouts, Martin said he and the other players have been learning to adjust to the different styles of the coaches they encounter during the draft process.

“We’re used to [Irish offensive line coach Harry] Hiestand, what he does, and when you get to work with all these other O-line coaches, they like everything a certain way, whether it be my … three-point stance or just keep going with my hands,” Martin said. “There [ares things that you pick up of what coaches are looking for along the way.”


Injury Update

Former tight end Troy Niklas and former defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt attended but did participate in on-field drills.

Tuitt, recovering from a fracture in his left foot, wore a walking boot. The injury also prevented Tuitt from participating in the NFL combine, but Tuitt said he should be ready to play soon.

“About three more weeks and then probably two more weeks after that, so not that far,” Tuitt said. “By the time training camps start, I will be 10 percent.”


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