Brandon Johnson crouched low to the turf in Holuba Hall, then sprung into the air, pumping his arms and stretching his frame and fingertips to tap one of the highest rungs of the vertical jump testing stick above him.
“Thirty-nine point five,” called out a league official, one of the several dozen NFL personnel in attendance for Thursday’s NFL Pro Day at Penn State.
Johnson’s leap — officially recorded by Penn State as a 39.0 — was the highest of all participants those of whom included Jordan Lucas, Angelo Mangiro, Trevor Williams, Tarow Barney, Ryan Keiser, Dom Salomone, Kyle Carter and Jon Gingrich.
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Christian Hackenberg, Austin Johnson, Anthony Zettel and Carl Nassib all executed the jump at the NFL Combine (as well as the 40-yard dash, shuttle run, cone drill and bench press) and did not repeat.
Representatives from 31 of the 32 NFL teams showed up for the event, and many were there to see those latter four headliners work out.
Hackenberg certainly showed his preparation for the scrutiny when he went through throwing workouts to close the afternoon. He was accurate with excellent footwork, had plenty of zip on his throws and selected his own routes to show league personnel what he’s been working on, including flushing out in the pocket and throwing on the run.
But Brandon Johnson and Carter may have proved to turn some heads despite being relatively little-known to the pro personnel.
Johnson also ran one of the fastest 40-yard dash times of the players in attendance (4.43), while Carter had a vertical jump of 35.5, ran a 4.64-second 40-yard dash and was nearly perfect on his routes with Hackenberg, executing them crisply and athletically.
Carter met up with the quarterback last Friday, where the latter gave him the pick of the route chart he’d created for his own Pro Day throwing workout.
“It was different, he had a specific game plan of what he wanted to do,” said Carter. “But I mean, since I was the one guy that he had thrown to all these years, he let me pick and choose what I wanted to run. He was more comfortable throwing to me, and I feel like it definitely worked out.”
The former tight end did not see the field much during his final season at Penn State, but clearly fit the mold of a next-level player and his size (6-foot-3 and 248 pounds), arm length and speed attracted attention. He was lined up in a variety of different spots, including on the wing, in the slot and in the backfield.
“Versatility is key,” he said. “The more you can do, the more they’re going to have you on the field and the more likely (you are) to make that 53-man roster...I just want to show that I can do it all.”
Carter hasn’t yet had any meetings with NFL teams.
“I’m talking with my agent after this, and hopefully I did enough to prove that I should get one of those,” he said.
Austin Johnson and Zettel set themselves apart from the pack of defensive linemen executing drills with their footwork and speed despite their girth.
Johnson confirmed that he cut about 15 pounds from his 323-pound billing during Penn State’s season
Surprisingly lightfooted for a 300-pounder, the defensive tackle breezed through agility drills.
“I just wanted to do it right, set the tone and be crisp in everything I did,” said Johnson.
Zettel, who is now sitting at a solid 280 pounds, ran through defensive lineman workouts — and some NFL teams lined him up and asked him to run routes for them as a tight end.
“I mean, they just wanted to see me catch the ball,” he said, shrugging off the idea of a transfer to the other side of the ball at the next level.
The defensive tackle — whose ability to play on the end intrigued many scouts, too — said he thinks his football IQ has improved since he began training in Florida about six weeks ago.
“I’m paying more attention, that’s a big thing,” he said, also stating that he “wishes he felt this good during the regular season.”
Zettel has also been interviewing with a few different teams this offseason and of course participated in this year’s NFL Combine.
“It’s a lot more chill, laid back here (in Holuba Hall) than at the combine,” he said. “In the combine everyone is uptight and you’re going off no sleep the whole week. In State College, being with my defensive linemen, Austin (Johnson), I love working with those guys. So getting to be with those guys was something special.”
Zettel will stay in State College to work out for the next month as he waits for the NFL Draft at the end of April.