Former Bulls impress at Pro Day

Former USF cornerback KJ Sails (above) said he believes his work in the community shows NFL teams he is a “high-character guy” and a leader in the locker room. ORACLE PHOTO/FRANCISCO ROSA

Even as the rain began to come down at USF football’s Pro Day on Thursday morning, a number of former Bulls still registered impressive performances in front of NFL personnel a month out from the 2021 NFL Draft.

“Mother nature wasn’t with us today, that’s fine, it’s a blessing to be out here,” quarterback Noah Johnson said. “Back around old teammates and guys coming out this year. Seeing NFL scouts out here, it’s a blessing so I’m happy that we were able to get it done.”

Five players from the 2020 team — Johnson, running back Odunayo Seriki, wide receiver Devontres Dukes and cornerbacks KJ Sails and Mike Hampton — as well as three players from the 2019 team — running back Jordan Cronkrite, offensive tackle Marcus Norman and defensive end Greg Reaves — all participated in the event.

Representatives from the Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins, Los Angeles Chargers and Cleveland Browns were all in attendance.

One of the bigger names those NFL scouts were taking an in-person look at was Sails, who played two seasons at USF from 2019-20. He logged a broad jump of 9-feet-6-inches and bench pressed 225 pounds nine times Thursday.

Other numbers for Sails, including his official time for the 40-yard dash and other various drills have yet to be announced, and will likely stay unreleased due to NFL scouts tending to keep their numbers private when possible.

Despite not knowing the official numbers yet, Sails said he is satisfied with what he put on display.

“I tested pretty well today, I’m satisfied with my numbers,” Sails said. “Like I said, I came out and did what I had to do and what I needed to do. I’m blessed to be here and blessed to go on this journey.”

Sails, who is nicknamed “The Mayor” for his work in the Tampa community, said an NFL representative came up to him and referenced his alternative moniker, although he did not quite get it right.

“Actually when I was working out, one of the scouts said ‘I’m interested in finding out more about The Mayor’ or governor, he said, it was kind of funny,” Sails said. “I didn’t really think they did their research about that type of stuff on me. It was kind of shocking to hear him say that but it was a blessing at the same time.

“I’m thankful to impact this community because this community means a lot to me. I grew up here, I’m born and raised here, a lot of my family is from here, so it’s a blessing.”

Other broad jump scores included a 10-foot-2-inch leap from Dukes as well as a pair of 10-foot-3-inch jumps from Johnson and Seriki.

Johnson, who played one season at USF in 2020 after transferring from Alcorn State, showcased his versatility as he threw passes as a quarterback and also ran routes as a wide receiver for the scouts to review. He also bench pressed 225 pounds 17 times.

It was a busy day for the 2018 SWAC Offensive Player of the Year, running from position to position, but that adaptability was something he wanted to be seen.

“That’s what I trained for, I did three months of training, I’m in good shape, I can still go right now,” Johnson said. “I just wanted to show the scouts that I’m in shape, I’m versatile, I’m ready to work and hopefully I’ll get a chance and get a shot.”

Hampton was limited in his availability at the event due to a hamstring issue he has been dealing with for a couple weeks, but his work on the bench press was something that likely garnered some attention.

The 190-pound defensive back repped 225 pounds 22 times, an impressive number for a player of his stature.

“I feel good [about my bench press score], I’ve been putting in work for about five months, doing a lot of upper body [work],” Hampton said.

In addition to the aforementioned 10-foot-2-inch broad jump from Dukes, he was also able to catch some passes from Johnson in wide receiver drills.

Dukes said he feels he was able to disprove many of his critics, but still recognizes where he has to improve.

“I wanted to show that I was able to prove the doubters wrong,” Dukes said. “Some guys, they had me not strong enough, not fast enough, not quick enough, so I think I came out here and I showcased all of that.

“Some areas I think I could have improved on a lot, but like I said I’ve been working for three months and I gave everything that I had.”

In terms of strength, Dukes was able to show that off on the bench press as he repped 225 pounds 16 times.

Another player who seemed to have turned a couple heads was Norman, who drew the particular attention of the Chiefs and Panthers representatives after he completed a drill.

The Panthers personnel member approached Norman and shared a few words with the tackle.

Now, attention shifts toward the 2021 NFL Draft which is scheduled to begin April 29 and end May 1. The participants of the Pro Day will likely hope their football resume is adequate enough for a team to add them to its roster, via either being drafted or signed as a free agent.