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Logan • They say one should take Pro Day stopwatch times with a grain of salt.
The two dozen or more pro football scouts who came up to Utah State took them with a tape measure.
After all of the 18 former Aggies prospects had run their 40-yard dashes once through, they measured the hashmarks of Utah State's indoor facility to make sure the athletes were running the right distance. Once satisfied that the Aggies had the same field markings as every other football field in the country, they returned to look bug-eyed at the times they had scrawled on their sheets.
On Pro Day, numbers and speeds have a way of rounding out favorably. But there was nothing disingenuous about the smiles on the faces of several Aggies who felt they had greatly improved their chances of playing in the NFL and other pro leagues.
"You don't know what kind of mental battle you're going to have to go through," linebacker Jake Doughty said. "All in all, I felt good. You always have something to work on in football, but for the most part, I felt good."
Doughty, a two-time all-conference linebacker at Utah State, was one of many former Aggies who had much to prove to scouts on Tuesday morning. While prospects Tyler Larsen, Nevin Lawson and Maurice Alexander had done drills for hundreds of scouts at the NFL Combine, for most of the NFL hopefuls, Pro Day was their chance to be noticed.
Doughty perhaps reset some perceptions about himself more than any other player, getting 24 bench-press reps, running a dash unofficially timed around 4.6 seconds, and performing well in field drills. The knock on him is his shorter stature, but also in the belief that he's not a great athlete.
Another riser was A.J. Pataiali'i, an all-conference defensive lineman who showed explosion despite weighing in at over 300 pounds.
Speed was the strongest suit for most of the top USU prospects. Nevin Lawson was believed to have improved on his 4.48 Combine dash, while also getting a better vertical leap number as well. But his fellow defensive backs were also fast: Both Quinton Byrd and Tay Glover-Wright had unofficial times in the 4.4 range, and some clocked them faster.
The hashmark measuring was something of a backhanded compliment to them, but in the end validated how well they did.
"I knew it was right: Utah State, we don't cheat, we play fair," Lawson said. "Every DB, as far as the drill performance and field performance [did well]."
Some, like Bojay Filimoeatu, had waited longer than others for that validation.
The former Utah State sack artist tore his patellar tendon in a senior exhibition game last year, and took a year off to train for a shot at the NFL. He showed off what he'd done since his injury, leading the Aggies with 33 bench-press reps and running between a 4.6 and 4.7 in the 40-yard dash.
He spent the last chunk of pro day in a few conversations with scouts, and the grin never left his face.
"I'm better now," he said. "I'm blessed to have had that struggle to let me know what it really is like to be outside of football and start from the bottom. It really humbles you."
Standouts from Pro Day
Jake Doughty, LB • 24 bench-press reps, 32-inch vertical, 4.60-second 40-yard dash
A.J. Pataiali'i, DT • 29 bench-press reps, 31.5-inch vertical, 4.94-second 40-yard dash
Joey DeMartino, RB • 36-inch vertical, 4.50-second 40-yard dash, 17 bench-press reps
Bojay Filimoeatu, LB • 33 bench-press reps, 4.63-second 40-yard dash
Tay Glover-Wright, CB • 4.40-second 40-yard dash, 9-foot-11 vertical
Note: 40-yard times are unofficial measurements/estimates, with approximate 0.05-second range plus or minus