Penn State football: Nittany Lions work out for NFL scouts on Pro Day

tjohnson@centredaily.comMarch 11, 2013 

— Jordan Hill doesn’t own a pair of cowboy boots and standing on his tippy toes isn’t going to fly with pro scouts who will continue to scrutinize his measurables as April’s NFL Draft rapidly approaches.

But while they’ve labeled the 6-foot-1 Hill’s height as a concern for how his abilities project at the professional level, the defensive tackle did all he could during Penn State’s Pro Day on Monday to polish his stock in the eyes of NFL suitors.

“They’re always coming at my height,” Hill said. “I guess I’m a short guy. I never was, but I’m a short guy now.”

He’s also a leaner, faster, more explosive player than the one who showed up at last month’s NFL Combine in Indianapolis. There, Hill was dogged by a swollen left knee and posted ho-hum results.

Getting an early start in Holuba Hall, Hill improved his 40-yard dash — he covered the distance in 5.23 seconds in Indianapolis and ran a 4.97 on Monday — and bettered his broad jump by eight inches, leaping 111 inches on the building’s turf as scouts from 25 NFL teams looked on. Reporters were not permitted to watch the workout sessions.

Hill registered the results after weighing in at 301 pounds, down from the 305 he checked in at at the Combine in February, according to Hill.

“I got a lot of compliments on the way I interviewed with teams and the way I talked and the knowledge of the game,” he said. “On the field, they were pleased with my D-line drills. But of course, my broad (jump) my (vertical jump) and my 40, they wanted to see me improve and that’s what I did today.”

Hill, who will continue to work out with Penn State strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald and work toward finishing his degree this spring, said he’d be disappointed if he was drafted in the fourth round or lower.

“I’ll be ready to go to work,” Hill said. “I just need the opportunity, need to get my foot in the door and go from there.”

Linebacker Gerald Hodges also was among the four Penn State players who had their second auditions for scouts on Monday. Offensive lineman Matt Stankiewitch and linebacker Michael Mauti made appearances at the Combine and again on campus. A Penn State spokesman said Mauti did not work out but did participate in interview sessions.

Hodges came away from his pro day workouts satisfied.

“I used to be nervous,” Hodges said of working out for NFL teams. “I think you’re more nervous about the Combine than you are the draft. There’s nothing I can do. I did everything I can do. I played football as well as I could do. I trained as hard as I can train.”

On Monday he opted to take part in drills he didn’t run in Indianapolis. Hodges, who has been noted for his strong coverage skills by scouts, turned in a 4.25-second shuttle run and a 35.5-inch vertical leap inside Holuba Hall. Hodges ran a 4.78 40-yard dash, bench pressed 225 pounds 22 times and turned in a 119-foot broad jump at the Combine.

Like Hill, Hodges said a fourth-round or later draft position would be a disappointment.

“You don’t know what plays into it. I’ll be upset too if I went down that far,” Hodges said. “But I put it all in God’s hands. I don’t really worry about it. Just as long as I have my chance to play in the NFL is a dream come true, no matter how you get there.”

Hodges said he talked to former high NFL draft picks Sean Lee and NaVorro Bowman, second-round and third round selections from Penn State in 2010, respectively, for advice on approaching pre-draft preparation.

Quarterback Matt McGloin, who wasn’t invited to the Combine, relied on an old teammate on Monday too. McGloin tossed passes to former Penn State wideout Derek Moye as scouts looked on. McGloin also ran a 4.89 40-yard dash.

Like McGloin, Stephon Morris didn’t get a chance to show off his abilities at the Combine. He said he was just two votes shy of being invited. Morris learned that after he personally called Combine officials last month to find out where he stood with the selection committee, made of the directors of National and BLESTO scouting services and player personnel officials from all NFL teams.

“It kind of pissed me off,” said Morris, who made 25 starts in four years with the Nittany Lions. “At the same time I said, ‘It’s better than missing it by 10 (votes). At least people are looking at you.’”

Scouts finally got to see Morris in action on Monday.

Morris claimed multiple scouts clocked his first 40-yard dash time at 4.16 seconds. Former Texas wideout Marquise Goodwin was the fastest player timed at the Combine, clocking in at 4.27.

“They knew I was (5-foot-8), they didn’t know I was going to weight 188 and I ended up doing 18 reps on the bench, which was very impressive to them,” Morris said. “The main thing was the 40. They just wanted to see the 40. You can’t have a slow 5-8 corner and I’m just glad I wowed them.”

Morris said he also turned in a time of 4.22 and a third attempt in the 4.3 to 4.4 range, but those were after he tweaked his hamstring running the first one.

“I kind of rolled into (the first one),” Morris said with a laugh.

As a result, he wasn’t able to do the shuttle run or three-cone drill, but did turn in a 10-foot broad jump and 35-inch vertical jump.

Like Hill, Morris said he plans to keep working out on campus as he works to finish his degree. Afterward, he and his former teammates — 13 former Nittany Lions took part in Pro Day activities, according to a Penn State spokesperson — will hope for the best when NFL teams make their draft selections April 25-27.

“I’m really not worried about it,” Hodges said. “I’m just waiting for the day I can suit up in one of those NFL uniforms.”

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