Quarterback Kawaun Jakes and tight end Jack Doyle are used to completing passes in front of thousands of roaring fans.
Wednesday at Smith Stadium, they played for a much tougher audience. Jakes, Doyle, fullback Jamarcus Allen, defensive tackle Rammell Lewis and offensive lineman Adam Smith participated in WKU’s Pro Day this week, showing off their skills for a group of NFL scouts.
The five former players were working out to try to improve their stock in the upcoming NFL Draft, which will begin April 25.
Jakes said it was a relief to finally go out and participate in Pro Day after getting ready for the past couple of months.
“I’m glad it happened finally, just preparing for it gets stressful,” Jakes said Wednesday. “Just working out every day, it took like two months, but I’m happy it finally came and I’m happy I’m out here with my guys.”
WKU doesn’t have any players that are surefire picks in the draft this season. Most Topper prospects will be anxiously watching to see if their name gets called in the draft or if they will have to try to make it in free agency or the Canadian Football League.
Doyle is considered by many to be WKU’s top draft prospect. He hauled in 162 passes in four years for WKU, good for second all-time at the school, and had 53 catches for 566 yards and five touchdowns this season.
Doyle said the process of signing with an NFL team if a player isn’t drafted gives him distinct memories of choosing which college to play football for.
“It’s a crazy process — it’s kind of like high school recruiting all over again,” he said. “I’m just ready for the next step and taking it one stride at a time.”
While Doyle has the benefit of working in his comfort zone, Allen was working to learn a new position while he worked out in front of the scouts.
Allen, a defensive tackle for the Toppers for the past four seasons, is working to make it as a fullback in the NFL. He ran speed drills and worked on pass-catching with Jakes towards the end of the workouts Wednesday morning.
He said he decided to make the switch because he was not the ideal height or weight for an NFL lineman — Allen is 5-11 and weighs 268 lbs. after losing 20 lbs. in the past six weeks.
“I’m not the ideal height for a defensive lineman — or weight,” Allen said. “So I just felt like it would be better for my chances to do something that my body frame was more seen in the NFL of the CFL. I feel like I made the right change.”
He said he talked to current WKU fullbacks such as seniors Kadeem Jones and Nick Baisch.
“They told me there’s a difference between getting hit and hitting somebody,” Allen said. “I hope I get to live that experience.”
A face that was notably absent from the workouts was defensive end Quanterus Smith.
Smith, who recorded a Sun Belt Conference-leading 12.5 sacks in 10 games before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in November last season, missed Pro Day as he continues to recover from his injury.
Former players owned the field Wednesday, but current players will get back to work at Smith Stadium today.
Friday marks the first official spring practice for the Toppers. WKU will take part in 14 team practices over the course of the next month before the Toppers host the annual spring game April 20 at 2 p.m.