Defensive end Garrett Sickels, who surprised many by declaring early for the NFL draft, didn’t prove doubters wrong at the Combine two weekends ago.
His 40-yard dash (4.90 seconds) ranked 24th out of 27 defensive ends, while his vertical jump and broad jump were 23rd and 24th, respectively. As Sickels described it, “it was just one of those days.”
But the New Jersey native corrected those Combine mistakes at Thursday’s Penn State Pro Day.
“The goal was to do what I knew I was capable of,” Sickels said inside Holuba Hall. “I wasn’t really happy with the way I performed at the Combine. Honestly, I don’t think anyone would (be).”
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Sickels improved his numbers across the board Thursday, running a 4.81 40-yard dash and posting a 33-inch vertical jump and 113-inch broad jump, up from 28 and 105 inches, respectively.
He performed well in the defensive line position drills, too, showing off in front of scouts and coaches from 15 NFL teams, including the Eagles, Steelers, Jets and Texans.
“It was huge,” Sickels said of his Pro Day. “Today was a day to really check off some boxes for me, improve what I did at the Combine and show these coaches what I’m capable of.”
The 6-foot-3, 252-pounder exhibited pass-rushing potential in his time at Penn State, landing on the All-Big Ten second team selected by the conference coaches. As a redshirt junior, he led the Nittany Lions with 12.5 tackles for loss with six sacks.
However, Sickels, who projects as a seventh-round selection, could’ve returned to Penn State for his final year of eligibility and potentially boosted his draft stock.
That decision to leave was one he saved for the end of the season.
“I was asked throughout the year, in camp and all the way through, and I didn’t have an answer,” Sickels said. “I didn’t give it any true thought until after the Rose Bowl.”
And he didn’t have any outside help, either. Sickels didn’t submit for a grade by the NFL Draft Advisory Board, typically standard for eligible underclassmen interested in the next level.
The New Jersey native said he didn’t even ask his family or friends for advice when weighing his options.
“I didn’t want anything else to determine that,” he said. “It was all me. I felt I was ready to move on and take my shot.”
Don’t get him wrong; Sickels was glad to be back at Penn State for his Pro Day. He hung out with former roommate Christian Hackenberg, who was in town to support his friends, and worked out alongside another roommate, defensive end Evan Schwan.
But Sickels, beaming after a rebound Pro Day, is happy to get on with his career.
His eyes are fixed on making an impact in the NFL.
“As soon as I made my decision, I haven’t looked back,” the defensive end said. “Yeah, I miss the guys here. I miss the defensive line. But I feel like I’m in a great place for myself. I’m happy.”