Pro Day an open audition for USC players

LOS ANGELES-The hard knocks of the National Football League came calling at USC on March 23, as scouts from teams lined up in droves to get a chance to see what the Trojans had to offer, in terms of talent for the upcoming draft in April.

This is not a spectacular event, but the workout is a necessary component for those players looking to be employed by The Shield. There is no crowd to cheer them on. The only cheering they hear comes from their own internal voice.  All the baggage of friends and family being in their ear during this moment becomes almost obsolete.

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Quarterback Cody Kessler fires away during the USC Trojans Pro Day workout on March 23, 2016. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/

This is audition time. This is basically where players earn their keep when it comes to their potential draft status.

When universities hold their Pro Day workouts for the league, it is basically to dissect the mythical from reality in evaluating athletes almost in their purest form, from strength to agility.

Nothing is off limits, from the 40-yard dash to the broad jump to the bench press. This year’s USC Pro Day has some intriguing prospects for NFL teams. The biggest names on the radar screen were linebacker Su’a Cravens and quarterback Cody Kessler. The thing about these workouts and the NFL combine is that they are the true employment evaluators for the next level.

Well, at the very least, these workouts get the process started until the NFL Draft comes around and concludes when some players are invited to some team summer training camp and is signed to a free agent contract if they somehow make the cut.

Sure, what many of these players have  done on Saturday afternoons are wonderful barometers of the talent these athletes possess, but they’re not everything. And that is what leads the NFL scouts to come poking around schools to interview, gauge their astute measurements and put them through basic drills that truly test their abilities.

While Kessler and Cravens were the “hot” guys  everyone came to look at, the Trojans had other players  come out and work out before the scouts. Running back Tre Madden (4.6 40-yard dash), center Max Tuerk (limited in action), linemen Greg Townsend Jr, Antwaun Woods, Soma Vainuku, Claude Pelon, Delvon Simmons, and Keyvon Seymour, all worked out for representatives of 32 teams attending the Pro Day workout.

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Former USC standout and current New York Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams showed up at the USC Pro Day workout on March 23, 2016. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/

Kessler looked like money on his passes. Woods came up short in his second 40-yard dash attempt, and Cravens may have surprised with his 4.69 and 4.71 clock timings in the 40. Despite these times, Cravens is a very athletic and rangy player who should be able to fill the void for a team looking for a nickel linebacker.

Among those looking in on the Trojans’ Pro Day was New York Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams, who was drafted in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Another USC alumnus, Willie McGinest, now a commentator on the NFL Network, following his stellar professional football career, was also in the midst of things as he watched from the sidelines.

So what did we learn from all of this? The lesson is that nothing is for sure, even the NFL Draft can be a bit unpredictable. The Trojans players working out for NFL scouts at least have their foot in the door of this arduous and very tedious process.

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