After a year unlike any other, pro day goals remain similar for former Huskers: Be ‘extremely fast’

Nebraska’s Dicaprio Bootle celebrates a first-half interception against Iowa on Friday at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.

One year ago, Nebraska football’s pro day stood as one of the final in-person events for months, taking place on March 12 as the sports world shut down in real time amid rising concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

Fast forward to Tuesday, and the five former Huskers who will work out in front of NFL scouts have been through a wild year, full of stops and starts, ups and downs and rigmarole.

At its core, though, pro day features a simplicity that’s often been absent over the past 12 months.

Running back Dedrick Mills, for example, smiled and cut off a reporter’s question about the difference between training for football games and training for a workout.

“I’m not even going to lie, that is my main focus right now is just making sure I run this 40(-yard dash) well,” he said. “Every other drill, I could really care less for. I just want to show the scouts that I got faster.

“That’s really my main concern. They know I can block, they know I’m strong, they know I’m physical. So they just want to see if I got faster.”

Mills will be joined by offensive linemen Matt Farniok and Brenden Jaimes, tight end Jack Stoll and cornerback Dicaprio Bootle.

NFL teams have plenty of tape on most of the group, all of whom are multi-year starters and contributors in college. Take Bootle, for example. He started 32 consecutive games to end his Nebraska career.

The former unheralded recruit from Miami, who earned a scholarship offer by running a blistering 40-yard dash at a camp in front of then-NU coach Mike Riley and his staff, feels a full-circle moment coming.

“I like to say that I ran my way into Nebraska and tomorrow morning I run my way into the league very fast,” Bootle said. “Extremely fast.”

Yes, there have been differences this year compared to other draft classes, but it’s been mostly smaller details like working out in masks or meeting with NFL teams via videoconference.

“In the age of COVID, you find out there’s a lot more technology than you thought was out there,” Stoll said.

He and Jaimes, though, were both able to take part in actual college all-star games: Stoll in the Tropical Bowl and Jaimes in the prestigious Senior Bowl.

“It was very valuable. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to go and play in the Senior Bowl and represent Nebraska,” Jaimes said. “I did meet with all the teams, so that was a big deal. That was very huge.”

“Something that I learned … I played a lot of different positions at the Senior Bowl. I wanted to show how versatile I was to a lot of different teams and to show I could play at that level at any position the coaches asked me to be at.

“I think I proved a lot in that sense.”

For those that haven’t been able to work out or play in front of NFL scouts for the past year, Tuesday holds added significance. Jaimes is a likely draft pick, but the other four are either late-round options or perhaps will be part of the post-draft free agency process.

This, then, is the last best chance to make an impression. It’s also one more chance to go out and get some work in together, and even that is not something to take for granted at this point.

“COVID just in general has made people appreciate a lot more of what they do have,” Stoll said. “Coming in and being able to work out is something that, before COVID, I’m sure we all took for granted. We thought the weight room would always just be open, we thought spring ball would always just be available.

“I think it really just changed, specifically, my perspective in realizing that I get to go out and do what I love every single day and have cleats on my feet.”