Thursday, at least one representative from every NFL team was in Athens to watch more than a dozen draft-eligible Georgia players audition for next month’s draft and a spot on a professional roster. That’s why Ware, and several other small-college players from the state, made the trip to work out again.
“Most of the scouts were probably up here in hotels (Wednesday),” said Ware, who played at Hardaway High School in Columbus. “You never know what given day you’re going to get a standout time.”
Ware was one of the players who left disappointed Thursday after running a 4.62 40-yard dash, more than a 1/10th of a second off the mark he set Wednesday in Fort Valley.
Others, like Bulldog quarterback D.J. Shockley, tight end Leonard Pope, offensive lineman Max Jean-Gilles and wide receiver Bryan McClendon felt good about their performances. Shockley and Pope both are clients of agent Todd France and decided to let most of their marks from last month’s NFL Combine stand.
Shockley, who turned 23 Thursday, only participated in passing drills but felt like he excelled on a chilly, windy day.
“I think I threw 44 or 45 passes, and they said only two or three hit the ground so that’s a pretty good day, I guess,” he said. “I just wanted to go out and show I could throw every kind of route out there.”
France declined to speculate on Shockley’s draft status.
“So many different teams think so many different things about him,” he said.
Pope, on the other hand, is a more known commodity. He’s expected to be the first Bulldog selected in the draft and could go in the first round. The tight ends coaches from the Cincinnati Bengals (who pick 24th) and Jacksonville Jaguars (who pick 28th) came to Athens to put Pope through drills.
“Right now, I’m hopefully first round, but anything would be a blessing,” said the 6-foot-7 Pope, who ran a 4.62 40-yard dash at the combine and participated only in receiving and blocking drills Thursday.
Jean-Gilles, a probable second- or third-round pick, summed up what the day was about for most players.
“It went real good,” he said. “I made some money.”
Jean-Gilles performed offensive line drills and bench-pressed. He was happy that his bench press repetitions went from 27 at the combine to 31 on Thursday (players lift 225 pounds as often as possible) but most pleased that he was able to drop from 355 pounds at the combine to 343.
“I went back home (to Miami) and sweated in the damn sun,” he said.
McClendon was one of the biggest surprises for Georgia. He may not be picked in the draft’s seven rounds, but his performance Thursday may have helped him get a shot as a free agent with an NFL team. He ran a 4.53 40-yard dash, one of the fastest times of the day, and vertical-jumped 32 inches.
“This is the only chance I’ve got so I took it real serious and prepared really hard,” he said. “Now all I can do is sit back and wait.”
Georgia’s Greg Blue, DeMario Minter and Tyson Browning also ran in the 4.5 range. Cornerback Tim Jennings did not run the 40 because he ran a 4.32 at the combine.
One of the most disappointing parts of the day from Georgia’s perspective was the absence of Gerald Anderson. The defensive tackle from Waycross was scheduled to attend but didn’t show up. He was not invited to the combine, so he missed his best chance to show his talent to scouts.
Several former Bulldogs, including linebacker Derrick White (who was kicked off the team last year) and wide receiver Michael Johnson (who caught the game-winning touchdown pass against Auburn in 2002 that vaulted Georgia to the SEC title), came Thursday. Johnson, who has added more than 30 pounds to his frame since his Bulldog days, weighed in at 251 pounds and worked out as a tight end.
Players were given the chance to bench press, broad jump, vertical jump, run the 40-yard dash, run several short agility courses and participate in position-specific drills. The most impressive bench-pressers of the day were Jean-Gilles and center Russ Tanner, who had 24 repetitions.