By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- The Clemson Tigers’ held their NFL Pro Day today at Death Valley and welcomed scouts from several NFL teams, former Tigers’ now on NFL rosters, and even an NFL head coach.
NY Jets head coach Rex Ryan was present at the event, watching closely as defensive ends Andre Branch and Kourtnei Brown did their position drills and even worked one on one with the two speedsters.
Although Branch opted out of running the 40 meter dash at the Pro Day after clocking in at a 4.70 at the NFL combine earlier in the month, he impressed the scouts and Ryan showing them why he is projected to get drafted within the first two rounds of the NFL draft in April.
“I thought I did pretty good today,” Branch said after Pro Day finished. “I came out and showed everyone what I can do. I didn’t run the 40 or the shuttle drills because I felt that I did great at the combine. My numbers proved at the combine that there wasn’t any need to do it again today.”
Branch did both the defensive end drills and linebacker drills today, as several teams look at him as a potential linebacker, and Branch was eager to show his versatility.
As for the talk surrounding Branch, especially after an impressive showing at the combine, whether he’ll be drafted in the first or second round, Branch doesn’t listen to it.
“If you listen to what everyone’s saying then you’ll get complacent and that’s something that I don’t want to do.” Branch said. So far, Branch has heard from 20 or so NFL teams and is looking forward to working out for them.
Defensive end Kourtnei Brown and defensive tackle Brandon Thompson also showed out at today’s Pro Day. Both ran well in the 40-yard dash, with Brown clocking in at an unofficial 4.66 and Thompson 5.01. Brown’s athleticism impressed Jets’ Ryan as he worked him out one on one along with Branch. Thompson is projected to go within the first two rounds, and although Brown didn’t have a stand out season, I wouldn’t be surprised if his name gets called in the later rounds of the draft or is invited to try out for a team after it’s all said and done.
On the offensive side of the ball, scouts were very interested in Dwayne Allen and seeing what he could do on his own turf. Although Allen chose not to run the 40-yard dash or participate in the shuttle drills, he showed his versatility when thrown to.
“I sure hope I did what I wanted to do today, personally I think I did,” Allen said. “I haven’t talked to anyone yet, have to talk to my agent afterwards and see the feedback he got, and what he thought of it. It was definitely satisfying to me.”
Allen came into Pro Day hoping that he could prove to scouts that he could play out of any formation and he believed that he achieved that today.
“I believe I did,” Allen said. “Working with the coaching staff that was out here, they allowed me to split out wide, operate from the traditional tight end position and come in through the slot, I believe I was smooth, getting in and out of my cuts and caught the ball.”
As for if he’ll be the first, second or third tight end off the board in April, Allen believes it doesn’t affect him and therefore he doesn’t pay attention to it.
“It doesn’t matter where I go, that’s what I feel like,” Allen said. “I just want to go to a team that’s going to use me and that’s all that matters. If I’m going to be in a system that isn’t best for me in the first round I’d rather go in a later round to a system that fits me.”
What will the next few weeks have in store for Allen?
“Well some of the coaches weren’t able to make it out to Pro Day so they may want to work me out one on one,” Allen said. “And just healing, I’ve been going and haven’t had a chance to heal my body so I may take a day or two off. Then it’ll be back to lifting and preparing for the next season. There’s no break in the sport of football.”
Former Clemson quarterback Willy Korn also participated in the Pro Day event today, stating that the last time he was in Death Valley was during the 2009 sesaon.
What’s the process like for a guy like Korn who has spent the last two seasons as quarterback for North Greenville University?
“I’ve gotten some feedback from guys who have talked to my agents Justin and Joel Turner,” Korn said. “They said that scouts from a team here, team there that have asked about me and are interested in seeing how I perform today. I think some of those same guys are going to be able to come to the workout at Coastal Carolina at the end of the month. I haven’t heard a whole heck of a lot, which isn’t too important at this point.”
After such a long road through the college ranks, Korn has used his perseverance and determination to keep his dream of playing in the NFL alive.
“It’s not all because of me because I wanted to throw the towel in a few times when things weren’t going well for me,” Korn said. “My dad and brother who always believed in me, my friends and teammates at North Greenville who always encouraged me, there were way too many people who have invested time into me for me just to hang it up and quit. I’m just thankful for the people who truly believed in me and kept me going.”
Halfway through the first season at North Greenville, Korn’s confidence started to come back however he didn’t start to think then that his NFL dream was still a possibility.
“I didn’t focus on that, I really just was focused on winning football games for North Greenville,” Korn said. “So appreciative of Jamie Chadwell for giving me the opportunity to play at North Greenville because if he hadn’t I’d probably be third string free safety at Marshall trying to contribute on special teams somehow, so without him it would have never happened.”
Head Coach Dabo Swinney was also on hand at today’s Pro Day and was impressed with the turnout of former players and current players that came to cheer on the participants.
“It’s awesome that’s the culture that you want to create and work very hard to foster that,” Swinney said. “One of my goals for these guys is for them to have a great college experience and if we’re successful in that then they want to come back. And heck we had more NFL guys here today than we did prospects and that’s awesome because they all move back here, they train and feel comfortable here because they know everyone here cares about them. That’s what it’s all about. And to see these guys perform today, a great turnout and lots of exposure. A lot of these guys are going to make it, we’ve had a lot of success over the past three years with guys that have been drafted or signed as free agents have stuck on teams, whether it’s active roster or practice squad. I’m proud of all these guys and look forward to watching how they fare in the draft, some of them will sign as free agents, but we have 6 to 9 guys that I think have a chance to stick.”