COSTA MESA, CA-For National Football League hopefuls, more is merrier. Merrier in the sense that as many workouts in front of NFL teams that college stars can get mean a greater chance that a pro club might be willing to invest in their services, be it as a high draft pick or as a free agent looking to hook up with a team.
Yes, it’s that time of year again. Football is about to get into full gear. The NFL Combine is done and over with. The NFL Draft is looming on the horizon. Ahead of the annual three-day media celebration for players and their families, there are passing drills to execute, ball rushing maneuvers to perfect, and blocking and defensive techniques to impress upon scouts, coaches and general managers.
That means each NFL team will be going through the exercise of holding camp by inviting players they can add potentially to their roster in the upcoming draft or through the free agent route. A contingent of former NCAA stars were brought in by the Los Angeles Chargers to the team’s Local Pro Day to show what they can do.
Utah quarterback Troy Williams was one of those players trying to impress Chargers coach Anthony Lynn and his coaching staff.
“It means a lot coming out here in my backyard, trying to showcase my talents, said Williams. “Hopefully, somebody will give me a shot. I feel good I have this next step in my life.”
When he came out of Narbonne High School, success and making it into the NFL looked every bit possible for Williams. After throwing for 8,855 yards and 98 touchdowns at Narbonne, Williams was one of the most highly touted prep quarterbacks in the nation.
He landed in the Pac-12 Conference, signing to play for the University of Washington. That marriage didn’t work out, so Williams dropped down to the junior college level and played a season at Santa Monica College, where he produced 2,750 yards and 31 touchdowns. Williams received and accepted an offer from Utah to play for the Utes. It turned out to be a bumpy pathway for Williams.
A breakout season in 2016 in which he passed for 2,757 yards in 13 games for the Utes, Williams saw limited action in 2017. That hasn’t deterred Williams from continuing his quest to land on some team’s roster.
“I’m just more anxious to do things,” Williams said. “I’m ready to get to wherever I might be going. It’s just been fun waking up doing football every day. It’s been a dream. I’m loving it.”
Williams would certainly love it if the hometown team pick him up.
“That would be great,” Williams said. “I’d have the whole family, the whole city out here. It would be a dream come true. If they give me the shot, I’m going to make sure to take full advantage of the opportunity.”
Princeton quarterback Chad Kanoff is one dude who is taking advantage of his pre-draft status. The 2017 Ivy League Conference Offensive Player of the Year, Kanoff made his appearance at the Chargers Local Pro Day as a hot commodity.
Kanoff has reportedly garnered attention from the New York Giants, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, and the Indianapolis Colts. The New England Patriots held a private workout for Kanoff, who completed 73 percent of his passes his senior season. Kanoff when asked about his preference of where ideally, he would like to play geographically, the former Harvard-Westlake School standout was blunt with his reply.
“I love Los Angeles,” Kanoff said. “I’m an L.A. kid.”
Both JoJo Wicker and Demario Richard can identify with Kanoff. The Arizona State teammates both hail from Southern California. Wicker excelled on the defensive line while starring at Long Beach Poly High School before moving on to ASU.
Richard, who racked up 4,251 total yards and 63 career touchdowns as a prep star at Palmdale High School, rushed for 1.027 yards and 12 touchdowns his senior season for the Sun Devils. Now they both are on a mission of finding a home with an NFL team.
Playing in front of family and friends should the Chargers decide to draft or agree to terms contractually with him would be awesome, Wicker said.
“I think it would be a blessing,” Wicker said. “I think it would be an easy transition. It would be easier for my family.”
Wicker said going through the process of working out with teams like the Chargers has helped him prepare for draft day and beyond.
“I think the process is pretty cool,” Wicker said. “It keeps me on my toes. One day we can be working out for the Chargers and the next day we could be in Pittsburgh. I just think it kind of keeps me on my toes, keeps my mind spinning a little bit. But I just take every day like it is the last one and put in as much work as I can.”
Richard likens his running style to that of proven NFL rushers Marshawn Lynch and Mark Ingram. Both men are what you consider to be bruisers at the running back position. Richard says he brings the same type of thunder when he runs with the football.
“They both are kind of short, low to the ground, strong, powerful runners,” Richard said. I watched Marshawn Lynch all through Cal. I watched Mark Ingram all through ‘Bama when they played Tim Tebow in the SEC Conference Championship. Those are the two guys I kind of idolized the most. I pick a lot from their game but try to stay in touch with my game as much as I can.”