Let’s give some serious props to Dwight Galt — the man behind Penn State’s takeover at this weekend’s NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
The showcase featured eight former Nittany Lions, and a few of them (i.e. Saquon Barkley, Mike Gesicki, Troy Apke) were the among the standouts. A lot of credit obviously goes to the players, and rightfully so.
But Galt, Penn State’s strength and conditioning coach, deserves a shoutout. Barkley, Gesicki, Apke and more Nittany Lions came to Penn State years ago with raw talent, and Galt helped transform them into workout warriors.
This isn’t something new. Before linking up with James Franklin at Vanderbilt and following him to Happy Valley, Galt ran the Maryland strength program for nearly two decades and trained athletic freaks like Vernon Davis, Shawne Merriman and Darrius Heyward-Bey.
In fact, the only two players to weigh 230 pounds or more, run the 40-yard dash in 4.40 seconds or faster and vertical jump 40 inches or higher at the Combine since 2003 are Davis and Barkley — two Galt prodigies.
With Penn State lighting up the Combine, Galt has received some love on Twitter. Franklin called him “the best strength coach in college football,” while both local and national media members suggested that he deserves a raise.
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock simply said on-air, “Great job, dude.”
A great job, indeed.
▪ Apke had the most to prove out of any Nittany Lion — perhaps any defensive back — at the NFL Combine. And boy did he show he belongs.
The former wide receiver ran a 4.34-second 40-yard dash, tops among safeties and fourth-best among all defensive backs.
Apke’s speed wasn’t a secret, at least to those who watched him play the past two seasons.
But a 4.34? Faster than Barkley?
That turned some heads Monday — and it will get him drafted in April.
▪ Another defensive back who deserves a mention is corner Grant Haley.
Haley — a projected seventh-round pick or preferred free agent — ran a 4.44-second 40-yard dash, helping his stock significantly.
Plus, he has a fan in Mayock.
“I think he’s one of the most undervalued defensive backs in this draft,” the expert said. “I think he’s tough, I think he’s quick and fast, and for some reason no one talks about this kid.”
Don’t be surprised if chatter picks up after his Combine performance.
▪ When CDT reporter Josh Moyer and I were looking ahead to the NFL draft, one of my predictions was that Gesicki would be a first-round pick.
And while it seemed highly unlikely based on initial projections, it might actually happen after Gesicki’s insane Combine.
Gesicki was first or tied for first among tight ends in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump, 20-yard shuttle, 60-yard shuttle and three-cone drill. And if not for a deduction on the bench press, he would’ve tied for first there, too.
On Monday, CBS Sports put out a mock draft that had Gesicki going No. 27 overall to the New Orleans Saints.
Gesicki paired up with Drew Brees? That’s intriguing.
▪ Citing the late Fiesta Bowl and playing in two senior games, DaeSean Hamilton decided not to run the 40-yard dash — and it was a smart decision.
Hamilton “helped himself as much as anybody in the country” in that senior game span, per Mayock, and running an uncomfortable or tired 40-yard dash is not in Hamilton’s best interest.
And when he showed up at the Combine, Hamilton still put in work. His 20-yard shuttle was fifth-best among wideouts, and his three-cone drill was the sixth-best time, ahead of Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk, Oklahoma State’s James Washington and Maryland’s D.J. Moore.
▪ Oh yeah, and Barkley did some crazy stuff, too.
The Penn State running back put up more bench press reps than All-Pro lineman Joe Thomas, ran a faster 40-yard dash than famed returner Devin Hester, logged a quicker 10-yard split than speedster DeSean Jackson and posted a higher vertical leap than wideout Julio Jones.
NFL.com insider Ian Rapoport reported after Barkley’s performance that the back is “firmly in the mix” to be drafted No. 1 overall by the Cleveland Browns.
Hall of Fame running back Terrell Davis said if the Browns don’t, “They’re nuts.”
▪ Considering Penn State’s incredible Combine, “bad” is relative here. But linebacker Jason Cabinda and cornerback Christian Campbell not taking part in on-field workouts was unfortunate.
Cabinda told the CDT on Feb. 19 that he hoped to prove at the Combine that he’s athletic enough to be a three-down linebacker in the league, and he’ll now have to wait until Pro Day to show that.
As for Campbell, he didn’t play in the Senior Bowl, either, despite impressing in practice leading up to the game. He told Mark Wogenrich of the Allentown Morning Call in Indy that he’s dealing with a minor injury, but will be prepared for Pro Day.
Penn State safety Marcus Allen is also waiting until March 20 to run the 40-yard dash.
▪ Nothing to really say here.
After dominating the NFL Combine, don’t be shocked if Penn State garners even more attention in April.
Expect all eight of Penn State’s Combine attendees to be drafted.