A dozen fans waited outside Holuba Hall searching for autographs Tuesday, while dozens of NFL scouts watched 21 former Nittany Lions take the field to show why they belong at the next level.
There were plenty of other highlights and updates from the annual pro day, too. Take a look:
Mike Gesicki, tight end
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Sure, Gesicki said Tuesday he was pleased with his performance at the NFL Combine — but there is one drill there that still bothers him a bit.
In the broad jump, where he recorded a distance of 129 inches, the seventh-best mark at his position since 2000, Gesicki knew he could’ve done better. In fact, it annoyed him so much that he thought about doing the exercise again Tuesday.
“It actually landed 11-3 (at the Combine) and then I fell back, which would’ve been the Combine record for a tight end,” Gesicki said. “I was thinking about re-doing it today, but then I was like,’ Should I do it?’ And I was like, all right, I’ll just sit on my (10-9).”
Despite that “hiccup” in the broad jump, Gesicki has improved his stock enough to where he’s now routinely getting selected late in the first round in mock drafts. He’s already spoken to all 32 NFL teams so, at this point, he said he’s just trying “to get one team to fall in love with me.”
Marcus Allen, safety
Allen — an aggressive hitter who sits No. 5 all-time on Penn State’s tackle charts — didn’t have much to prove. Well, except for one thing.
“I can run. I wasn’t no 4.7, 4.8 (40-yard dash) type of guy,” Allen said. “I think I proved that.”
The safety’s best 40-yard dash time was 4.59 seconds.
Allen, a projected fourth-round pick by NFL.com, said he knew he could do that — and noted that training with Barkley certainly helps.
“I want to beat everything he’s doing,” Allen said. “If you’re training with a freak, you’re going to become a freak.”
Jason Cabinda, linebacker
Some players prefer to spend time away from football during the NFL draft, maybe instead going fishing or heading to the movies.
Cabinda is not one of those players.
The linebacker, who recorded a respectable 33.5-inch vertical and 10-9 broad jump Tuesday, said he’ll be glued to the TV for the full three days of the NFL draft — no matter where he’s selected.
“I’m watching from beginning to end, absolutely, 100 percent,” he said. “Because you don’t really know when your name’s going to get called.
“I just think it’s something that’s awesome to enjoy. Being a part of this draft class, you want to see who goes before you and goes after you. And then, once your name gets called, you go to work — and all that doesn’t matter. First round, sixth round, undrafted free agency, you’re all on the same level. You got to come in ready to work and ready to get on the field and make plays.”
Christian Campbell, cornerback
Campbell was invited to and attended the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, but didn’t take part because of a strained hamstring.
Despite it feeling tight again entering Pro Day, the promising defensive back got it loose and felt like his “normal self” on Tuesday.
“I felt like I should’ve caught every ball, and I dropped two,” Campbell said. “But other than that, I felt like I had a pretty good Pro Day.”
The 6-foot-1 corner recorded a 41-inch vertical leap at the Lasch Building, which would’ve been tied for the second-highest mark at the Combine. He also ran a 4.51 40-yard dash.
Troy Apke, safety
If one under-the-radar prospect made a name for himself at the NFL Combine, it was Apke. So how has life changed since NFL legend Deion Sanders pulled him aside and told him he could “run run” after his 4.34-second 40?
“I’m still myself — but probably a bit more attention from people,” he said. “They see my speed and my agility and ability, things like that. But I kind of wanted to show them today what I can do in drills and footwork and things like that, which I think I did.”
Apke said he missed two balls during the defensive back drills but was pleased with his footwork otherwise. Overall, though, he couldn’t have been happier with his offseason so far.
“I think I helped myself a lot,” he said. “I got MVP at the NFLPA game, did really well at the Combine, so I’m really happy with my performance this year.”
Brandon Smith, linebacker
Smith made 116 tackles over his final two seasons at Penn State. He was a reliable member of Penn State’s defense and hopes he can be the same for a team in the league.
But Smith understands that special teams is going to be his way onto an NFL roster.
“Like a lot of rookies, just trying to make a team with special teams,” the four-game starter in 2017 said. “Every little detail counts. It all adds up. I’m just focused on controlling what I can control.”
If football doesn’t work out, Smith — a member of the 2017 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team — has a solid backup plan. He was accepted into the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine and still plans on applying to a few more med schools.
Josh McPhearson, running back
McPhearson is an interesting case.
The former wide receiver-turned-running back was the 2017 scout team offensive player of the year, appeared in 11 games last season, never recorded a carry in live action and made his mark on special teams.
But McPhearson, who ran a 4.45 40-yard dash and logged a 10-8 broad jump, believes he has what it takes to make it in the league.
“My situation here at Penn State was different than a lot of guys: Walking on, earning a scholarship, going to three different junior colleges, having Saquon Barkley play in front of you,” McPhearson said. “It’s all about self-confidence. I know I’m a great football player, and I know I can make plays when the time is right. That just kept me going. I didn’t come this far to quit.”