North Dakota State hosted its annual Pro Day this past Thursday, drawing a crowd of 22 professional teams from the NFL and Canadian Football League.
The 49ers, Broncos, Browns, Buccaneers, Chargers, Colts, Dolphins, Eagles, Falcons, Giants, Jaguars, Jets, Lions, Packers, Panthers, Rams, Ravens, Saints, Seahawks, Titans, Vikings and Saskatchewan Roughriders were in attendance to watch 23 athletes go through workouts.
Among NDSU graduates, the main attractions for scouts were quarterback Easton Stick and running back Bruce Anderson. Still, there were plenty of standout performances for teams looking to fill their training camp rosters.
Stick went through a rigorous scripted passing program, which included more than 60 throws. The script was heavy on intermediate and deep routes as Stick attempts to battle his reputation as a poor deep passer.
“This was the last time to put a good foot forward,” Stick remarked afterward. “The big thing in the workout that we wanted to show was that I can move around and be athletic, and two that I can make all the throws.”
By and large, Stick was successful in his endeavor. A key benefit for Stick was having the comfort of familiar receivers. He threw to Anderson, Desmond Cain, Lance Dunn, Nate Jenson and former Louisville grad Gio Pascacio. Pascacio had been training with Stick in California in the run up to the Pro Day.
It was a positive showing for Stick, who showed accuracy and threw a tight spiral on mid-range passes. His best deep connections were unsurprisingly to Shepherd. The duo combined for a pair of memorable, title-winning connections in Frisco in the past two championship games.
After throwing to NDSU receivers, Stick linked up with Brady Olivera and John Santiago, two University of North Dakota running backs. The two have both garnered attention and continued to do so at the Pro Day. Santiago had positive showings in the 40-yard dash, while Olivera’s 29 reps on the bench press were the most among all participants.
Olivera and Santiago were joined by three others UND teammates. Dickinson State, University of Jamestown and Minot State were also represented, rounding out the field.
Fatigue clearly became a factor later in the workout, as some of Stick’s deep balls lost their touch. Regardless, Stick felt confident in his last showing before the NFL Draft, which takes place April 25-27.
“There’s not a throw out there that I’m not able to make. I thought we did that,” Stick said. “There were some deep comebacks, deep outs and pushing it down the field on different things. There was a ton of different movement and footwork. I feel good about it.”
Anderson was a benefactor of Stick’s heavy passing regiment. Anderson sought to show off his pass-catching abilities, lining up for roughly a dozen of Stick’s attempts. Anderson looked smooth in and out of breaks and was sharp on cuts.
“I came out here and did my best,” Anderson said. “I caught the ball really well and showed I can do the drills really well. I’m happy with today.”
Shepherd also caught a large chunk of the passes from Stick. Their rapport was obvious, and the familiarity made for a strong showing for Shepherd.
Robbie Grimsley posted an eye popping 23 reps on the bench press. The mark would have been the most among all safeties at the NFL Combine. Grimsley was a tackling machine at NDSU. He could be on the radar for the Vikings, who seek depth at the position, especially after losing multi-year starter Andrew Sendejo.
For others, it was just as crucial simply to be noticed. That was the case for Jalen Allison, Colin Conner, Aaron Steidl and Tanner Volson. Allison recorded the best time in the 40-yard dash with a mark just north of 4.40 seconds. For reference, only six defensive backs ran faster than 4.40 at this year’s NFL Combine.
Anderson and Stick are eyeing the draft, but the rest of the prospects are likely hoping for training camp invites. Of course, without having inside knowledge of the scouts’ thought process, any prognostication is just that, speculation at most. With the Pro Day in the books, their futures will be decided in short order.