By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
From Seth Russell coming back from an ankle injury to KD Cannon running precise routes to Lache Seastrunk trying to get one more shot, a group of 15 former Baylor players had a lot to prove in Wednesday's Pro Day workouts that attracted scouts and coaches from 29 NFL teams.
"Those guys did a great job of just doing what they do best - play football at a high level," said Russell, who had season-ending neck and ankle injuries the last two seasons. "They're going to have a long career in the NFL, and I'm excited for those guys. I think a couple of the guys probably boosted their draft stock quite a bit today, just with their performance. I hope I boosted my draft stock a little bit, too. . . . But that's what it's about, being able to see those guys come out and hopefully have a dream come true."
Measured in at 5-11, 174, Cannon made an NFL Combine splash with a 38-inch vertical and 4.41 clocking in the 40-yard dash, but was criticized for his route-running.
"That's all I was focused on today was my routes," said Cannon, who had 87 catches for 1,215 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, earning Cactus Bowl Offensive MVP honors. "All I wanted to do was prove them wrong."
Cannon said it was "just natural" catching passes from Russell, "since my freshman year, I've always caught from Seth."
The 6-foot-3, 224-pound Zamora, who had 63 catches for 809 yards and eight TDs in 10 games last year, clicked off a 4.52-second time in the 40 and a 40-inch vertical. He just came back from a visit with the Oakland Raiders and has visits set up with Cincinnati and San Diego.
"Zamora can be great," Cannon said. "He has a great body frame, fast, physical, he can catch the ball. Zamora can be a great NFL receiver."
Throwing a variety of routes to Cannon, Zamora, Baylor receivers Kaleb Moore and Lynx Hawthorne, Seastrunk, Baylor running back Shock Linwood and former Stephen F. Austin tight end Zach Conque, Russell said, "I don't think it could have gone any better."
"I was spinning the ball pretty good, felt really good," said Russell, who threw for 5,461 yards and 60 touchdowns in his Baylor career. "Felt real balanced. I've been working hard, been working hard every day, and it all came together today."
Former NFL quarterback Jon Kittna, who has worked with Russell the past couple months, said his demeanor reminds him of Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer.
"He just needs to find somebody who believes in him if he doesn't get drafted," Kittna said of Russell. "But I think after a day like today, he's going to get drafted. He threw the ball tremendous."
A sixth-round draft pick by the Washington Redskins, Seastrunk has had chances with four other NFL teams and two in the CFL. But, he was looking for another shot, "because I feel like I do have the intangibles to be a great running back in the league. All I need is to find the right staff to give me the right opportunity so I can be successful."
Linebacker Aiavion Edwards (6-0, 224) might have turned some heads with his Pro Day workout, running a 4.63 in the 40 and doing 21 reps on the 225-pound bench press.
"It's been a long time coming," Edwards said. "Three months of training and everything, so it's nice to finally come out here and perform."
Defensive backs Pat Levels and Ryan Reid turned in the best 40-yard times of the day at 4.45 and 4.47, respectively. Also going through the workouts were defensive backs Orion Stewart, Tion Wright and Terrence Singleton and former offensive lineman Tyler Edwards.
Although he didn't coach the Pro Day participants, first-year Baylor head coach Matt Rhule said he was "happy to see all the Baylor kids do so well and perform at such a high level."
"We want to develop guys into being pros, and part of that is helping them get through this process," Rhule said. "The biggest thing for me, my part, was just to make sure that this is a working day for them, to make sure that this is set up in a way so (the scouts) can get the best information on kids performing at their best."
Also on hand for the Pro Day workouts were current NFL players Corey Coleman and Spencer Drango of the Cleveland Browns, Xavien Howard of the Miami Dolphins and Kendall Wright of the Tennessee Titans.
On his performance...
"It went pretty good overall. I feel real good about my performance today and everyone else's too."
On what it would be like to play with Corey Coleman again...
"It would be fun, just like college all over, so I feel like it would be a great experience to pair up with him again."
On what he did best today...
"My routes, that's really all I was focused on today"
On Seth Russell's performance...
"Seth has done great, battling back from all those injuries is hard. He broke his neck not too long ago and he messed up his foot. Him just fighting is just a blessing. Since my freshman year I've always caught from Seth, so it's just natural"
On his performance...
"I think I did well in some areas and then I had some areas that I didn't do as well as I wanted too. I slipped around a little bit, but overall I think it was a pretty good day."
On his preparation for Pro Day...
"It's been a long time coming. It's been three months of training and it's nice to be here and get to go out and perform with the guys I came here to Baylor with."
On what he proved most today...
"I feel like I moved pretty well today. In the drills I feel like I did pretty well and I think I ran a pretty good 40, so I think overall I moved pretty well."
On how he performed...
"We did pretty good, I mean all people out there today did great. We just kept pushing each other to go harder and to be great."
On his 40 time...
"I feel like I ran as fast as I could. I feel like for it to be my last 40 of my career, I left it all out there and gave it all I got."
On hearing back from any organizations...
"They are still out there, dudes are still participating so after this we will probably get some conversations going on the side."
On how he felt the day went...
"Felt great. Don't think it could've gone any better. Guys were moving around, I was spinning the ball pretty good, felt really good, felt really balanced. We've been working hard every day on that, and it all came together today."
On his preparation with Jon Kitna...
"He's been phenomenal. I mean he's been in the league for 16 years. He has a lot of experience and was able to share that with me. He was telling me some things that, when I first started meeting with him, I had never thought of before. With drops and stuff like that, he was really breaking it down piece by piece. Without him I wouldn't have done close to what I did today."
On his progress since NFL Combine...
"I think we've come pretty far. From the combine to now I'm night and day with how I feel. With how I looked out there, I felt really confident in myself. Lot of guys around me that made me look good, and as a quarterback the receiver is going to make you look good if you just get them the ball."
Head Coach Matt Rhule
On if things are going smoothly...
"Yeah! For us I'm worried about the organization and making sure the scouts can work at a high level. We are one of a few schools that are open 365 days a year. Every practice is open to scouts and we are very NFL friendly and love to see all of the Baylor kids do so well and perform at such a high level."
On if he was able to speak with some of the former players...
"Spencer (Drango) has been here for a while. He has been here training, so I see him every day and I see (Andrew) Billings a bunch. It's nice to see those guys come back. Corey (Coleman) when he comes in he just walks right into my office. I've been able to talk with him on the phone, and he was at practice yesterday. It's good to have those guys come back and be a part of today."
On what he thought of Seth Russell...
"He has a great arm. He is an unbelievable athlete. I thought he looked accurate and his deep ball was fantastic. I always tell people I was the worst quarterback coach when I was a quarterback coach, so I don't know much beyond that, but he threw the ball well."