UNI’s Elerson Smith, Spencer Brown wow scouts at Panther Pro Day

Northern Iowa’s Elerson Smith, center, sacks former Indiana State quarterback Isaac Harker in a game in 2017. 

JIM NELSON [email protected]

CEDAR FALLS – There were days over the last five years when Spencer Brown and Elerson Smith did not see each other eye-to-eye.

In fact, they were days the two left the UNI-Dome after a Northern Iowa football practice not on speaking terms.

Monday, however, the two could not say enough glowing terms about the other.


“I think Elerson and I have unique story,” Brown said. “If you flash back to 2016 when he and I walked in the door on day one. We were both skinny and undersized. We were both under recruited.

“So he and I both have the same story in that sense. We came in worked hard, bought into the program and didn’t care what was said about us in our past, just wanted to look to the future.”

In front of more than 40 NFL scouts and personnel, Brown, Smith and three former teammates – Jackson Scott-Brown, Trevor Allen and Jaylin Smith – took part in UNI’s annual Pro Day inside the UNI-Dome.

It was an impressive showing for both Brown and Smith who are projected to be taking as high as day two of the draft (rounds two and three) April 29-30 and May 1.

The 6-foot-7 and 270-pound Smith ran a 4.71 40-yard dash minutes after he wowed the group with a 41.5 inch vertical leap and a 10-foot, 7-inch broad jump.

“I was expecting to jump high, but I didn’t know I had that in me. I’m excited about that,” Smith said.

Smith’s vertical jump would’ve ranked fifth in the 2020 NFL Draft Combine bested only by Jalen Raegor of TCU, Dante Olson of Montana, Henry Ruggs III of Alabama – all who went 42 inches and Donovan Peoples-Jones of Michigan who went 44.5.

It was facing that kind of athlete day in, day out in practice that drove Brown to get bigger, stronger and faster so he wouldn’t have to hold him play-after-play in practice.

“Going into fall camps and practices after that the best guy I saw every year was Elerson,” Brown said. “I saw him every single day. We had some good battles. We like to go at it after practice.

“I’m sure when he gets on here he is going to say he got used to being held once practice was going on. After fall camp the inside of his jersey was usually ripped up pretty good, but that was about the only way you could block the guy so I had to get by.”

The 6-foot-9, 320-pound Brown was equally impressive with a 4.88 40, 30 ½ vertical and he pumped up 29 reps of the 225-pound bench.

And asked what it was like to go against Brown in practice on a daily basis, Smith did not hold back.

“Spencer if not the best, top two,” Smith said of offensive tackles he’s faced. “Tristan Wirfs is I guy I would compare him too on skill level. I’ve seen Spencer’s best. When Spencer is on he is playing low, getting underneath guys. A guy who is 6-foot-8 and can get underneath you and as strong as he is. He is a monster in weight room. It translates well because he is a really smooth athlete.

“There are times I got my ass whipped by him in practice and had to come back next day and figure something out and get a new game plan and try to get better. It meant a lot to me to have a guy like that in practice.”

In addition to opening eyes at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., Brown (California) and Smith (Arizona) spent a good portion of the last three or four months preparing for UNI’s Pro Day.

The results showed with their performance, and their college head coach Mark Farley could not have been more proud because he saw them in the beginning – Brown was just 210 pounds when he arrived in Cedar Falls and Smith didn’t weigh much more.

“Throughout all the years, nobody saw all the hard work these two put in,” Farley said. “I’m very happy for them to see the kind of exposure they got today and the success they have had and the success they are going to have.

“I’m also proud of all the people who helped them get there. I’m watching Jed (Smith) our strength coach who put in all the time and effort and worked with these guys, day in and day out. The coaches who have done things with them. The academic people. There were so many that went in this day that UNI was a part of.

“I was just happy for them to have that success and expose they got today.”