Each year over 330 players receive an invitation to perform drills in front of NFL coaches, scouts, and personnel at the league’s combine in Indianapolis.
For the approximately 1,500 draft-eligible prospects who don’t get the call to attend the event, their professional aspirations hinge on an excellent showing at their school’s pro days which usually takes place between March and April.
However, due to the COVID-19 outbreak various universities, including FIU, were forced to close access to their campuses for safety concerns.
Quarterback James Morgan and cornerback Stantley Thomas-Oliver III were the only two Panthers chosen to attend the combine - leaving the remaining 18 seniors looking for creative ways to put their talents on display in hopes of being noticed.
“I can’t stress about it too much, I’ve got to control what I can control and be ready to seize the opportunity when it’s given to me,” said Isaiah Brown.
Appearing in 38 games with 23 starts over four seasons, Brown has been one of the top defensive backs for the Panthers over his entire career.
Since the conclusion of the season, he’s been training with Tony Villani of XPE Sports in Boca Raton in preparation for Pro Day.
Another obstacle that is out of his control are the varying ordinances that have been enacted by cities throughout Florida, restricting access to businesses deemed “non-essential” including gyms.
For a 10-day span while at home in Tampa, he has been without a formal gym as city regulations have restricted access to those facilities in the area.
“It’s been a week and a half since I’ve had access to a gym, but I’m heading back to Boca as we speak. In the meantime, I’ve been lifting in my garage, finding ways to do speed workouts and single-leg training,” said Brown.
While he did earn an invite to the SPIRAL Tropical Bowl where he met with personnel from 11 NFL clubs, the missed pro day means he won’t have the opportunity to formally test in drills for a wider audience.
In lieu of the event, he held a private pro-day style workout on March 24th and shared his numbers on social media.
In addition to Brown, linebacker Sage Lewis held a private workout in hopes of getting his numbers seen by a broader audience.
FIU’s leading tackler over the last two seasons conducted the session at D1 Training Academy in Tampa and has been training at Bommarito Performance Center in Davie.
Lewis met with 15 teams including the Dolphins and Buccaneers according to his agent, Ira Turner.
LB Sage Lewis (@11_reasons) FIU (@FIUFootball) Pro Day numbers:— Ira Turner (@agentturner1) March 26, 2020
40 yard: 4.68/4.62
10 yd Split: 1.62/1.58
Arm: 32 1/2”
Hand 9 1/2”
Sports performance specialist Steven Hamner of Fairchild Sports Performance in Houston and Clearwater, Florida trains college prospects for the drills that scouts will run prospects through at pro days.
In his opinion, the best thing that players who missed out on a formal workout can do is mimic those drills to the best of their ability.
“The most ideal thing the guys who are missing out can do is to get together and perform the crucial drills specific to their position and make sure it’s on camera - then send it out to scouts,” said Hamner.
Maurice Alexander has been one of the most electrifying players in the nation since making the switch to receiver in 2018.
He finished fifth in the nation in punt return average as a junior and led C-USA in the same category as a senior while accounting for over 2,500 all-purpose yards in his career.
The pro day was especially crucial for Alexander, as his season ended prematurely due to a season-ending injury which caused him to miss the final three contests.
“I started running earlier than expected - when the team was practicing [in Montgomery] for the bowl, I was off to the side rehabbing, so the whole process has been ahead of schedule,” said Alexander.
The Florida City, Florida native is working with Buffalo Bills receiver John Brown in anticipation of having a chance to showcase his talents.
“I was looking forward to pro day since the day I had my surgery, I’ve been with John Brown working on my receiver skills as well as [FIU Director of Strength and Conditioning] coach [Andreu] Swasey since the season ended,” Alexander said.
He’s also been part of a group of FIU seniors including Morgan, receivers Tony Gaiter IV and Austin Maloney who have worked out at local parks to run routes, while he and safety Olin Cushion III were granted private access to Miami Central High School’s weight room in the morning.
Alexander hopes to run a 40-yard-dash time of under 4.4 seconds and currently his vertical jump is 35 inches, with unofficial measurements of 5’10, 181-pounds.
For schools like FIU whose pro day represents an opportunity for scouts from all 32 NFL teams, as well as CFL and other leagues to get their eyes on players they wouldn’t otherwise normally see, the fact that event won’t take place isn’t lost on Alexander.
“For guys like us from smaller schools, it could hurt us in one sense. A lot of guys from bigger schools might have had pro day, but they can’t play ball. I’ve been doing that my entire life and I know I can ball,” said Alexander.