Miami coach Mark Richt talks about UM Pro Day
Last year the rain fell in torrents.
Wednesday was all scorching sunshine.
Fifteen former Miami Hurricanes, including record-breaking quarterback Brad Kaaya and NFL Draft prospective first-round tight end David Njoku, performed at University of Miami’s Greentree Field as representatives from all 32 NFL teams watched every move.
Dreams were on display for friends, family members, the media and those such as New England Patriots’ Super Bowl champion coach Bill Belichick.
“I actually called him Bill,” Kaaya said of Belichick, dressed in cargo shorts, a golf shirt, flip-flops and cap. “I didn’t call him ‘Coach’ by accident…So iconic”
Cornerback Corn Elder called Belichick’s presence “crazy.”
“I actually didn’t see him until I got ready to do my position drills and I was like, ‘Wow!’ He was right there. I had to make it look good for him.”
As usual, many current and former Hurricanes lined Greentree to support their UM brothers.
“Brings back a lot of memories,” said Cleveland Browns safety Tracy Howard, who withstood the slip-sliding rain during 2016 Pro Day. “I feel a lot better for these guys. It’s just good to be around them and supporting them. It gives them extra motivation.”
Kaaya had a very good day, despite performing with a previously undisclosed toe injury on his right foot that he sustained against Virginia Tech on Oct. 20. A source said the turf toe was sustained on the first play of the Hokies game.
Kaaya confirmed that was the reason he didn’t run the 40-yard dash Wednesday. But he said he felt great. His throws were crisp and accurate and he nailed some pretty bombs to former teammates Stacy Coley and Malcolm Lewis, and Njoku and Standish Dobard.
“I’m good to go,” Kaaya said. “That’s what I have to go back for another medical recheck for. It didn’t affect how I throw the ball. That’s where I’ve improved the most, my footwork. It didn’t affect that.”
Kaaya said he was proud of every one of his teammates, including receiver Lewis, who had an excellent pass-catching day, eliciting “Get that money, Malc!” shouts from spectators.
“Malcolm did awesome,” Kaaya said. “I think they all made some kind of money today. I think they’re all going to be steals for whoever gets them.”
Lewis, whose 40-yard-dash best, according to media-kept times, was 4.53, but “4.4-something,” per what the receiver said he was told, said scouts let him know he was “great catching the ball” and keeping his feet inbounds. “It means a lot. It’s what you work all through college to see. I’m glad I got to share it with my brothers.”
Each scout or coach used his own stopwatch to time players in their two 40-yard dashes, but times were not disclosed by UM.
Receiver Coley had the fastest 40 of 4.33 seconds. Cornerback Adrian Colbert impressed with his 4.44. Elder ran a 4.45.
Njoku, who did not speak to reporters, had a best time, per media, of 4.49 seconds.
Safety Jamal Carter ran under 4.6 flat.
“We all know what we can do,” Elder said. “We’ve seen it every day for the past four years in practice. It’s just another show. It’s home. So we had to make a statement out there.”
Also participating Wednesday were two former Canes who were dismissed from the team just before the season began: defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad and linebacker Jermaine Grace.
Grace looked substantially bigger and stronger than when he left UM. He trained in Atlanta for the past two-plus months with Lewis, he said, going from his previous 205 pounds to 223. He did 21 bench-press reps of 225 pounds apiece Wednesday, and was timed by media at 4.58, though one scout said he timed him at 4.49.
“I did pretty well,” Grace, a Miramar High grad, said. “It was hot, real hot. But I adjusted pretty fast. Me and Malcolm Lewis came up from Optimist to high school to college, and now we’ve trained together. It would be crazy if we went to the same NFL team.”
Carter also was pleased with his performance, saying his 40 improved to 4.5 seconds and his bench reps went from 19 at the NFL Scouting Combine to 23 Wednesday, with his broad jump going from 10-2 to 10-4. “I improved a lot. It feels good because I’ve been working so hard. It’s a relief.”
Dobard, accompanied by his 16-month-old son Standish Jr., said he trimmed down to 254 pounds and lost “a lot of body fat.”
“This is real special,” Dobard said, “because here at the U, this is all about family. I’m excited to see what the future holds for me.”