Nine Gophers Take Part in Pro Day

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Nine Golden Gophers who wrapped up their collegiate careers with the conclusion of the 2011 season had their opportunity make a case for professional careers Monday morning as Minnesota held its annual Pro Day at the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex.

Gopher seniors from last season taking part included Duane Bennett, Chris Bunders, Anthony Jacobs, Brandon Kirksey, Eric Lair, Da'Jon McKnight, Kim Royston, Gary Tinsley and Ryan Wynn. They were joined by roughly 20 athletes from other area schools to work out for a handful of National Football League scouts. The student-athletes were put through their paces in numerous drills, all mirroring the testing which took place at the recently-completed NFL Combine.

While Pro Day is the equivalent to one of the biggest job interviews these young men will encounter in their lives, the level of anxiety varied from player to player.

"I was pretty nervous, shaking at the line," Eric Lair said, talking about preparing to run the 40-yard dash. "It was pretty nerve-racking at the beginning."

"The process is always fun," Duane Bennett said. "The biggest thing I came in with was just not to stress about anything, just to come out here and have fun. I was walking around telling guys it's just another day in the office. Some guys come in thinking they have to do a certain amount of things ... but it's just like go out there and play ball. Ball hasn't changed since you've been seven years old."

Each of the Gophers who took part in Monday's testing said they were happy with their performances. But there was definite buzz around defensive tackle Anthony Jacobs' performance. Lair and Bennett also seemed particularly pleased with how they performed.

While official results were not available, Jacobs reportedly ran a very good 40-yard dash time for a near 300-pound defensive lineman. There were reports of Jacobs hitting 35.5 inches on the vertical leap and going over 10 feet in the broad jump. Jacobs worked out on campus with Minnesota strength and conditioning coaches Eric Klein and Chad Pearson in preparation for the Pro Day and he gave them plenty of credit.

"The coaches have trained me hard," Jacobs said. "We go every single day. I was just blessed to have an opportunity to show what I can do. The coaches just told me to go out there and do the same things they've trained me to do. That's what I did. I was relaxed and I happened to get some decent numbers."

While he put up "some decent numbers," Jacobs had no idea what those numbers were. He was so focused on performing, he didn't even pay attention to that stuff. He was so locked in on doing well, he couldn't even remember what he weighed in at Monday morning.

"I didn't ask or pay attention," Jacobs said. "I just did what they told me to do and then I was getting ready for the next one."

Bennett said he recorded a personal best on the bench press. He ripped off 28 repetitions with 225 pounds on the bar.

"I was banking on anywhere at 25 or greater," Bennett said. "When I knocked out the first 15, I was like 'Oh, wow. I'm really going up there.' I kind of caught myself off guard.

"There's always room for improvement," Bennett added about his overall performance. "But I think ... the numbers I put up, from what I've been hearing, I think it's been pretty satisfactory."

For every college football player who takes part in a Pro Day, the goal is simple. Just get at least one team interested enough in you to get to camp.

"20 percent of the league is drafted players," Lair said. "Everybody else is undrafted free agents. So (being drafted) really doesn't matter ... as long as you are productive."

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