For all but one Northwestern State football alumnus taking part in Pro Day Wednesday morning at Turpin Stadium, it was the last and best chance to make a good impression on 18 NFL teams.
For All-America receiver Jazz Ferguson, it was a big day, but the 6-5, 227-pounder will enjoy additional scrutiny in the coming weeks with visits to, and from, NFL teams as the NFL Draft approaches April 25-27 in Nashville.
For each one of the eight Demons working out Wednesday, it was a good day.
“I was pleased with how our guys performed,” said head coach Brad Laird. “They all rose to the occasion. I won’t be surprised if we have 3-4 of them in (NFL) camps in a couple of months.”
Laird watched and listened at Pro Day. NFL personnel conducted the testing and drills. He spent plenty of time visiting with the pro scouts.
“It’s fun to hear their perspective. Today I heard lot of positives about our guys, how they came out and competed,” he said. “This is something we look forward to every year.
“We want the scouts to know not only are they getting a good football player, a guy who will compete between the white lines, but they’re getting a guy who is going to do the right things away from the field. We’re going to teach that here, more so than just the X’s and O’s, and we want these scouts to understand our priorities so our guys are going to be able to take care of business in every aspect.”
Defensive end/linebacker Obinna Iheoma led the parade with 27 lifts of 225 pounds on the bench press, an 11.65 time on the 60-yard shuffle drill and was second with a 34.5 inch vertical leap.
Receiver Jaylen Watson was tops in three categories: 40-yard dash (4.63, tied with cornerback Rashaun Croney), short shuttle (5-10-5 yards) in 7.06 (Iheoma was right behind in 7.07); and the three-cone drill (4.25).
Receiver Marquisian Chapman had the best vertical jump at 35 inches.
Ferguson, whose 4.45 40-yard time Feb. 26 at the NFL Draft Combine was the best by a player his size since 2007, didn’t run that distance. He also skipped the bench press and vertical jump tests Wednesday.
After a 10-3 broad jump at the combine, he tried to improve it, and still had an impressive 10-1 that led the pack at NSU. His times (4.34 in the short shuttle, 11.84 in the long shuttle) were strong for a player his size, as was his 7.09 in the three-cone drill.
But his biggest impression came while going through pass routes and catching throws from former teammate Clay Holgorsen.
Ferguson caught every ball close to him. Watson and Chapman also sparkled.
“I impressed myself. I was able to run and perfect some of the routes I’m working with. I had a pretty good day. I heard it from the scouts and from some of my former coaches, so I feel good about it,” he said.
His physical attributes were apparent, but not the attribute that he and Laird cited first.
“When he walks between the white lines, he’s going to compete,” said Laird. “You can’t find a better practice player. Everybody sees the Lamar catch, the McNeese catches, because you can see video. What they don’t see is what he does from 3-5 o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon – and that’s compete. Doesn’t matter if it’s a 1-on-1 drill, a red zone drill, or first-and-10. Blocking or catching a football, he’s going to compete.
“He’s a team player with a lot of attributes and a skill set for the NFL, but it’s the intangibles teams will see that will set him apart.”
Asked by media what he would bring to an NFL team, Ferguson didn’t start with his skill set.
“They get a locker room guy. You can ask any of my teammates out here. I love to have fun. When it comes to football, obviously I’m a deep threat, and I can go up and get the ball. I can outrun a guy, not just jump over him. In general, I’m a great teammate.”
With his parents, his siblings and friends comprising a group of well over a dozen who were among the spectators Wednesday morning, Ferguson expressed his gratitude for his two years at NSU. A five-star recruit out of St. Francisville, he signed with LSU and played two seasons with the Tigers, starting against Auburn as a sophomore before being dropped from the squad for off-field immaturity.
He put it together in 2017 and 2018 at Northwestern.
“It made me stronger. It made me better. I had some people who looked after me when I got here, especially Miss Ashley (Leggett), the (assistant) trainer,” said Ferguson. “She saw the guy who came in here and was still devastated about leaving LSU, not being on that stage any more, but she watched the same guy mature, become a guy who goes to class, knows he’s got to get his grades, be that leader on the team, be that fun guy at the same time. That guy, he came a long way, that’s for sure.”
He’s not done yet, and some of his NSU teammates may not be either, based on Wednesday’s showcase.
TOP PERFORMANCES – 2019 PRO DAY at NORTHWESTERN STATE
BENCH PRESS (x225): Obinna Iheoma (27)
VERTICAL JUMP: Marquisian Chapma, (35); Obinna Iheoma (34.5); Isaac Warren (36)
BROAD JUMP: Jazz Ferguson (10-1) — (10-3 at the Combine)
40: Jaylen Watson & Rashaun Croney (4.63)
SHORT SHUTTLE (5-10-5): Jaylen Watson (4.25), Obinna Iheoma (4.31), Jazz Ferguson (4.34)
L-DRILL (3-Cone): Jaylen Watson (7.06), Obinna Iheoma (7.06), Jazz Ferguson (7.09)
LONG SHUTTLE (60); Obinna Iheoma (11.65), Jazz Ferguson (11.84), Jaylen Watson (11.84)