NFL hopefuls display skills at WKU pro day

Former wide receiver Nacarius Fant (1) runs downfield rout after catching a pass from quarterback Mike White (14) during the annual NFL Pro Day in Houchens-Smith Stadium on Friday, March 30. In the 2017 season Fant caught 704 yards receiving.

Alec Jessie

WKU football hosted its annual pro day in Houchens-Smith Stadium Friday morning, as 14 NFL-hopeful Hilltoppers worked out in front of 35 scouts from 28 different organizations.

Head coach Mike Sanford cited the number of scouts that show up at WKU pro day as one of his many motivations for coaching.

“It also motivates me as a head coach and us as assistant coaches in recruiting and bringing in talent to have pro days where you have 32 NFL teams,” Sanford said. “You know you’re doing something right and that’s what I look forward to, to being the conduit to the National Football League. I want this program to be that year in, year out.”

Sanford was very pleased with how the now former Hilltoppers performed and conducted themselves on such an important day.

“I’m real proud of this group,” Sanford said. “This is a life-altering moment, and I think some of these guys did really well for themselves. Overall, it’s a great opportunity. It’s a job interview. That’s what it really is. It was business-like.”

Among the headliners for the event was quarterback Mike White. He drew much of the attention on Friday morning as he impressed throwing the ball yet again on pro day.

White included a red zone portion to his workout on Friday, citing that he wanted to show the scouts how he could perform in game like situations.

“I thought that was the unique part about our script,” White said. “In this game of the draft process, you’ve got to do some things a little differently, so that was kind of my little extra to my script, I wanted to have a red zone period. I wanted to show not only red zone routes but red zone placement… That’s just what I wanted to show in the red zone. I wanted to show the high balls, the low balls, the balls away, the back shoulder, all that good stuff that you see in a game.”

Sanford loved White’s performance in the red zone drills, citing that as one of the most memorable moments of the day for the head coach.

“I thought Mike did a great job spinning it around. Highlight for me was watching Mike, from being at a lot of pro days, did some great stuff in the red zone” Sanford said. “I thought that was a really nice touch to work ball placement down in the red zone, and that really stood out to me.”

Tight end Deon Yelder continued his ascension up the draft boards with another good workout, according to his coach.

“I think he did incredible stuff for himself,” Sanford said. “I saw him hovering around a high 4.6 (seconds) in the 40, weighing 255 lbs. His broad jump was 10 feet. Just a phenomenal workout for a guy that you can tell has put in so much work.”

Yelder finally feels like he belongs, and his improving performances are further proof of it.

“I feel like now I’ve put my stripes down, and I feel like I earned this spot now,” Yelder said. “So every day when I go out there I’m more hungry, so I do better every day.”

Coming off of a devastating knee injury this time a year ago, Nacarius Fant had a tough road to recovery to get to this point. He is happy to be able to compete and put his name out there with the scouts.

“It felt really good. Like I said, coming back from rehab that’s tough coming back in that short amount of time and having all that pressure coming into the senior year,” Fant said. “And just to get that confidence back in my knee and be able to come out here and feel really good, it felt good.”

The pro day was a huge opportunity for these Hilltoppers to show the scouts what they can offer their NFL teams right before the draft. With the formal workouts now in the books, the process continues with team interviews before the draft begins on April 26, 2018.

Reporter Alec Jessie can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @Alec_Jessie.