Scouts from all 32 NFL teams, along with some scouts from the CFL, crowded around the Mississippi State University football players at the Palmeiro Center for the biggest job interview of their lives.
NFL Pro Day was the occasion as players dressed in skin-tight athletic gear to showcase their athleticism for the next level of football, and also got to meet coaches and players they may not have a chance to meet otherwise.
Johnathan Abrams, a defensive back who graduated from MSU, said it was a pretty big day.
“It is a lot you have to accomplish in just a short amount of time,” Abrams said. ”I’m just trying to keep myself prepared and not overwhelmed by everything. Getting to meet all of these players and all of these coaches. You get to see them on TV, but you never get to meet them in person.”
While MSU head coach Joe Moorhead has only known the players who were in the NFL Pro Day for about a year, he said it was bittersweet, as the day is all about the players making it to the next level of the sport.
“It is a day about the players, for some it is their time to shine,” Moorhead said. “To achieve a lifetime goal, so it is great to see them perform and inch closer to making it a reality. I think from a program standpoint, it shows that a young man can choose to come to Mississippi State and achieve all of his goals, and if he wants to play in the NFL, it can happen here.”
One of those players who will have the ability to achieve his life-long goal is Abrams, as his playmaking ability on film helped his case for an NFL team to draft him. Moorhead said what makes Abrams unique is he goes 100 percent, 100 percent of the time.
“I think his ability, I think it's his approach, I don’t know if I know a single guy who loves to practice as much as he does,” Moorhead said. “Someone who is always on the ground just because he is that aggressive. He is a guy that competes his tail off, has great football IQ and is a good teammate. I think he did everything he could to elevate his draft stock this year.”
Abrams' hard work ethic is one the MSU defense shared last season, and one Abrams said coaches in the NFL noticed and mentioned during his interviews.
“One thing that they have emphasized is balls to the wall,” Abrams said. “With our defense this year, one coach said every play, we are defending every blade of grass that is behind us, which is true. We take pride in that. The coaches in the NFL see a lot of success with Mississippi State players because they are healthy coming out of college, and are hard workers and really good men.”
A great example of a player being molded by MSU is Jeffery Simmons, a defensive lineman who declared for the NFL draft his junior year, who overcame some personal choices in high school, and grew as a person at MSU. He will have to use his experience to deal with even more adversity, as he tore his ACL in training for the Pro Day and is now working to rehabilitate his knee.
“The dream is becoming a reality, just one of those things to be blessed for the opportunity,” Simmons said. “Trust the process, everything will fall in place. The knee is helping me become more mentally strong, because it is one of those mental things you just have to stay focused with it.”
With Montez Sweat, a defensive lineman who graduated from MSU, Simmons and Abrams all projected to go high in the draft, it brings in a lot of scouts who have a chance to look at players like Elgton Jenkins and Chris Rayford who may not have gotten exposure before. Abrams said this showed how valuable MSU is to its athletes' future.
“Bringing in all of these scouts gives everybody else in this program a better chance,” Abrams said. “To show that there are more people here. Just talking to a few GM’s, they actually think we will have eight or nine guys drafted. It just says a lot about Mississippi State.”