Eight Miami Hurricanes are making the pilgrimage to Indianapolis this week — eight players eyeing future dreams and envisioning the performances of their lives at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine.
“It’s amazing to have seven guys who are my brothers competing with me in one place and representing our school,” said receiver Phillip Dorsett, who hopes to shatter Chris Johnson’s NFL Combine 40-yard-dash record of 4.24 seconds, set in 2007. “I’ve watched the scouting combine every year and always dreamed of being there. Now, I’m ready to perform.’’
Despite UM’s 6-7 record, the Hurricanes had enough talent for their eight standouts — defensive end Anthony Chickillo, wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, offensive linemen Jonathan Feliciano and Ereck Flowers, cornerback Ladarius Gunter, running back Duke Johnson, linebacker Denzel Perryman and tight end Clive Walford — to be invited to the Combine most coveted by players and NFL executives alike.
Last year, of the five Hurricanes invited (Seantrel Henderson, Allen Hurns, Brandon Linder, Stephen Morris and Pat O’Donnell), three were drafted. This year’s NFL Draft is April 30-May 2.
“I’m really excited to go up there and show the NFL what I can offer,” said Feliciano, who said he has “slimmed down” from 335 to 325 pounds and has gotten stronger in the process. “I want to run faster and look good for the NFL scouts.”
Feliciano and projected first-round prospect Flowers leave Tuesday for Indy, as athletes by position groups are staggered throughout the week and undergo medical exams, team interviews, psychological testing and an array of performance drills.
Dorsett, a Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas graduate who was projected by analyst Mel Kiper Jr. to be drafted late in the first round, said he will run the 40 on Saturday, with the NFL Network providing live TV coverage.
“I don’t really have a goal,” said the speedster, who posted single-season career highs of 871 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in 2014 and has been timed as low as 4.21 in the 40. He noted that the 4.21 was timed by hand-held stopwatches as opposed to the NFL’s more sophisticated electronic timers — “so, it doesn’t really count. I’m going to run my fastest and whatever happens, happens.’’
Johnson, UM’s all-time rushing leader with 3,519 yards, said his combine goal is “to be myself, have fun and show who I am on and off the field — not only in football but when it comes to interviews.
“We have to enjoy the experience because everybody doesn’t get a chance to do it.’’
Johnson, Dorsett and Perryman have continued training at UM with strength and conditioning coach Andreu Swasey — and a bevy of other Hurricanes, including former Canes and NFL players such as Andre Johnson, Jimmy Graham, Lamar Miller, Olivier Vernon, Travis Benjamin and Brandon Harris.
“Why work out here? Because I feel really great about myself and Coach Swasey is the reason why,” said Perryman, a first-round projection who lost seven pounds, and now weighs 238. “I’ve been working out with him for four years. My body, my speed, my strength have changed for the better because of him.”
Several other Canes seniors, who weren’t invited to the NFL Combine, will compete on April 1 at UM’s Pro Timing Day. Those include quarterback Ryan Williams, center Shane McDermott, defensive tackle Olsen Pierre and linebacker Thurston Armbrister. But for the chosen eight, the fun begins this week.
“It’s real important,” Perryman said. “You’re on national television. You have all the scouts, head coaches and general managers out there seeing what you can do. But there’s no reason to get nervous.
“Like I said, I feel great about myself.”