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Pro Day At Wake Forest

Pro Day At Wake Forest

Pro day at Wake Forest isn’t what it used to be. It is bigger and qualitatively better for the players, the scouts, and certainly the Demon Deacons football program. Wednesday, 28 NFL teams and one Canadian Football League team showed up in Winston-Salem to kick the proverbial tires on the latest group of Wake Forest players vying for a pro contract.

Pro Day Then And Now

Head coach Dave Clawson looked back on his early years at Wake Forest and what hosting Pro Day looked like back then. “I think our first year here, you know, we maybe had three NFL scouts here,” Clawson said Wednesday. “And they were outside. It was pouring rain sideways. And it wasn’t fair to the players and there wasn’t a lot of interest.”

Fast forward to Wednesday and there were 28 NFL teams represented and one CFL team. There were also 11 Wake Forest players looking for their shot at the next level. That number includes receiver A.T. Perry and tight end Blake Whiteheart who were also at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis earlier this month. Clawson referred to the present-day setup as, “The new standard.”

Pro Day At Wake Forest
Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson meets with the media at the school’s Pro Day for NFL scouts. Photo by Tony Siracusa

Clawson said this is what the program, players, and scouts should expect every year from Wake Forest football. “These players have elevated the program. This is their reward. They get a lot more attention than when we didn’t win games.”

A coach’s role is different at a school’s Pro Day. The players now have agents and marketing managers and are logistically former Wake Forest players. Clawson’s advice to the players on a day like Pro Day is, “Good luck,” he said. “At this point, they have so many people in their ear.” He added that he is always there for the players when they seek advice, but he acknowledged that they are grown men at this point who will have to own their decisions in the process.

The Lineup

The Wake group was heavy with defensive linemen, with Dion Bergan, Jacorey Johns, Kobie Turner, and Tyler Williams. Offensive linemen Sean Maginn, Loic Ngassam Nya, Je’Vionte Nash, defensive back Jermal Martin, Jr., and linebacker Ryan Smenda, Jr. were also there going through the drills. Whiteheart and Perry stuck to the on-field drills since they had already run the 40 and did the other measurables at the Combine. Smenda quite notably ran an unofficial 4.68 40-yard dash.

Perry did some of his drills in a black t-shirt that said “Playmakers” on it. It had the likeness of the players in the Wake receiver room. It was a one-off given to him by Ke-Shawn Williams, although Perry said they may make more for sale. Backup quarterback Michael Kern was the one throwing passes to Perry and to Whiteheart for the scouts.

Pro Day At Wake Forest
Receiver A.T. Perry with his custom-made shirt. Photo by Tony Siracusa

Perry said his time from last season, through the East-West Shrine Game, the NFL Combine, to his Pro day has been a blur in terms of time. He said in the on-field drills, his goal was to show the scouts that he could play inside receiver or go wide. We asked him what was more pressure for him, being in the closing minutes of a game against the likes of Clemson and North Carolina State, or having to perform in front of the scouts with his future on the line. “Probably in front of the scouts,” he responded. “Honestly, being in those games like that, I would love to be in them again. I hate those schools [Clemson and NC State]. I would say this is more nerve-wracking.”

Pro Day At Wake Forest
Receiver A.T. perry running drills during the Wake Forest Pro Day. Photo by Tony Siracusa

Like many players from numerous schools, Perry headed down to training facilities in Florida after the season. He has had the fortunate circumstances to work out with NFL wide receiver Anquan Boldin.

Maginn was pleased to see current Green Bay Packer Zach Tom at the Pro Day supporting his former Wake Forest teammates. Maginn went back home to Atlanta for his prep work. He said he wanted to show the scouts that he was agile on his feet with a good change of direction and had strong hands. Like Perry, he said it is unavoidable to have some nerves with all the scouts watching him. “It’s some anxiety,” he said, “but at the end of the day, you want to have those nerves. I felt like I had an adrenaline boost here and there.”

Wait And See

What comes next for most players is waiting to see if they get an invitation for individual workouts with teams. Turner said he has already been contacted for workouts by Washington, Carolina, and Baltimore. “Another long period of just waiting,” he called it. He was also down in Pensacola, Florida training. For him, he said the key to the training was preparing for getting just one shot to do the drills, so it has to be your best the first time out.

With Pro Day being on campus, the current roster had the day off from Spring camp. A couple of dozen of them were there watching their former teammates, and perhaps thinking about their future shot. Clawson is also there to up-pitch the future of his players. “Regardless of how they do today, these guys, every single one of them have degrees,” he said. “I want this for them as bad as they do, but it’s nice to know that their Plan B, because of their Wake Forest degree, they are going to be in great shape.”

The NFL draft is April 27th-29th in Kansas City.





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