#TGW: Chasing The Dream

March 29, 2014

By Jon Cooper
The Good Word

“When one door closes another opens” made a perfect theme for Friday morning when Georgia Tech held its annual Pro Day.

The literal closing of the doors to the John and Mary Brock Football Practice Facility, signaled the proverbial opening of the door to opportunity in the NFL, as some 17 Yellow Jackets — running backs and defensive backs, offensive and defensive linemen, linebackers and kickers — put their skills on display in various tests in front of representatives from all 32 NFL franchises.

“It’s exciting for our guys, especially for the guys participating in it and even for the guys that are still playing, they get to come out and watch,” said Head Coach Paul Johnson. “I’m sure there’s some pressure but that’s part of it. It’s chasing a dream. They all want to be in the best shape they can be and be in top form today to put their best foot forward.”

This was their last chance to show they deserve, best case, to hear their name called in the NFL Draft (May 8-10) or, worst case, earn an invite to training camp.

Defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu fell into the best-case scenario camp. Attaochu, the school’s all-time sacks leader (31.5), already had scouts’ attention, but was unable to perform at last month’s NFL Combine in Indianapolis, as he was recovering from a hamstring injury, which he suffered late in the third quarter of the Senior Bowl.

His Pro Day was about conformation to scouts. With their eyes on him pretty much at all times, he felt he gave them plenty to see.

“I think I did what I was supposed to do,” said Attaochu, who ran the 40 in the 4.5 seconds and performed well in both linebacker and defensive line drills. “I was just excited to be able to go out there and run today and be healthy, just to be out here and to be able to perform and show what I can do. It was hard going to the Combine and just sitting down and not doing anything, just doing the interviews. So being able to come out here and show the scouts my athletic ability, the film shows that but just being able to reassure them out here. I got a lot of great feedback.”

More under the radar was linebacker Brandon Watts. Not invited to the Combine, Watts got his share of eyeballs on Friday as he performed linebacker drills with Attaochu.

“I feel like I did great. I did everything like I expected to,” said Watts. “I wanted to bench a little heavier but I was a little tired at the end, so I didn’t do as many as I thought I would. Other than that, everything went great. I set a P.R. (Personal Record) on my vertical (37’5″), and my broad jump (10’3″). I guess that was a PR on my 40 (4.4s) because I never time myself.”

The 40 time came as little surprise to those that knew Watts, and predicted such success for him prior to the start of the day’s events.

“I’m really interested to see how Brandon Watts does today,” said former A-Back Roddy Jones, who was part of the broadcast team for ESPN3, which carried the day’s proceedings live. “He’s one of the better athletes on the team but not a guy that gets talked about a whole lot as far as his potential at the next level necessarily. But I think he’s a great athlete and I expect that he’ll do very well.”

“I’m looking for Brandon Watts’ 40. I’m thinking a 4.4,” said junior running back Synjyn Days, who attended as a show of support for his teammates. “I think he’s going to break the Georgia Tech linebacker record today.”

DB Jemea Thomas, Tech’s other invitee to the Combine improved on his performance at Indy, running the 40 in the 4.4s. He’d run 4.55 at the Combine (seventh among safeties).

With only Attaochu and Thomas having attended the Combine, the other Yellow Jackets were an unknown quantity, seeking an opportunity.

Among the players that may have raised their stock was running back Robert Godhigh. Godhigh ran 4.6 in the 40, but showed good hands in receiving drills and put up 23 reps at 225 on the bench. That tied for the most among non-linemen (RB David Sims, who had a very good all-around day, also did 23 reps).

“I felt really good in the 40,” he said. “The drills, I caught the balls and did what they asked, so I felt good about that as well. Everything I did felt really good.”

The winner in the bench was OL Ray Beno, who powered the bar up 30 times, two more than fellow OL Jay Finch.

“That’s definitely where my bread and butter is, in the strength division,” said Beno. “Hitting 30 reps was something I was looking forward to. I wanted to hit 30 or above.”

Beno, who had never even attended a Pro Day in his Tech career as it always took place when he had classes, felt that being on the familiar grounds of the Brock Center with friendly faces around made a difference.

“It surely does. It can be intimidating going into say an NFL team’s practice facility and having all their personnel and staff there,” he said. “But being here on our home turf, it’s definitely a good feeling and it was good to see these young guys come out and watch us.”

Johnson was proud of the support shown to his players and their overall display.

“I think it’s good for the younger players,” he said. “They all have that dream and that aspiration. So they get to see first-hand what it’s about.

“I don’t think I was surprised by anybody,” he added. “They ran some good numbers. Euclid Cummings ran really well for a guy that’s 290 and Brandon Watts ran some great numbers and some other guys were good. Nobody threw a stinker in there. So it was good.”

What kind of impression they made is to be seen — the Scouts were herded off to yet another Pro Day, this one at Georgia State.

For the Jackets players, it’s wait for callbacks hopefully to perform individual workouts for suitors.

Attaochu will be the busiest over the next couple of weeks, as he had appointments to visit Indianapolis, Philadelphia and, he believed, New England.

Others, though not as busy, can proudly say they gave scouts their best shot and will be ready should calls come in.

“Just go back, keep training and working out like I’ve been,” said Godhigh. “Just wait for a phone call or something just in case I have another workout to do and try and do better there.”

For Watts, it’s a chance to finally get some sleep.

“I haven’t slept in about three weeks thinking about Pro Day,” he said. “I’ve been up at all times of the night just thinking about it. I’m glad it’s over with now. I feel pretty good about it. I’m glad I came out here and did well.”

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