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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC seniors' NFL skills tested at Pro Day

Thirty-two scouts on hand Tuesday

Senior defensive end E.J. Wilson runs the 40-yard dash Tuesday morning at Navy Field during UNC’s Pro Day. DTH/Alyssa Champion
Senior defensive end E.J. Wilson runs the 40-yard dash Tuesday morning at Navy Field during UNC’s Pro Day. DTH/Alyssa Champion

Tuesday morning seemed a lot like spring practice for a group of 14 former North Carolina football players.

A familiar army of orange cones were scattered across Navy Field, mandatory sprints were the norm and a chilling wind reminded them winter was just barely in the rearview mirror.

The difference was that instead of hearing Butch Davis and the rest of the UNC coaching staff barking orders, 32 NFL scouts were the ones scrutinizing their every move.

“I was geeked; I was ready to go,” senior defensive end E.J. Wilson said of his mood before UNC’s Pro Day. “I was ready to get out and run around a little bit and get back on this field where I’ve been practicing for five years.”

The running portion of the workout began with a test of the most buzzed-about pre-draft measurement — the 40-yard dash.

Almost every scout in attendance lined up with stopwatch in hand at either the 10-, 20- or 40-yard marks to get splits on each player’s acceleration and top speed.

The biggest surprise in the 40 was former UNC quarterback Cam Sexton, whose time was in the 4.4 second range. Sexton, who transferred to Catawba College last season, said he had not run that quickly since his high school days.

Sexton also expressed regret for leaving the UNC program early, even if that meant sitting on the bench his senior season behind T.J. Yates.

“I probably should have stayed here,” Sexton said. “It was just a decision I felt like I had to make.”

After the straight-line sprint, the players broke into drills that tested agility and change of direction.

Almost every player slipped or stumbled on the turf surface during one of the many drills they were put through, but scouts gave them second chances when a mistake was made.

“It’s personal. It’s not like they’re trying to get through it, because they have another group coming up,” Wilson said. “They’re really trying to see what you can do and how you perform when you’re tired.”

Defensive tackle Cam Thomas was visibly angry at himself after a few slips, and he let off long yells after finishing two of the drills.

“I wasn’t really frustrated. It’s just I know I could have done better,” Thomas said. “It was just, ‘All right, go to the next one, move to the next one.’”

But thanks to a strong performance in the Senior Bowl, Thomas’ status as a draft pick is still secure. His agent has told him several teams have called with interest.

He still isn’t quite sure who any of them are yet, however.

“He didn’t want to tell me because he didn’t want me to get caught up in the hype,” Thomas said.

 

 

Contact the Sports Editor at sports@unc.edu.

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