Tide players work out at pro day
by Michael Casagrande
mcasagrande@annistonstar.com
Mar 08, 2012 | 4116 views |  0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TUSCALOOSA — The pro day approach for departing Alabama senior DeQuan Menzie stuck to the point.

The amateur years ended January in New Orleans. That next phase brings extra incentive.

“It’s just time to get that money,” Menzie said. “That’s what Dont’a (Hightower) and (Dre Kirkpatrick) say all the time.”

Those three highlighted Wednesday’s lineup that lacked a few of the biggest names. Linebacker Courtney Upshaw joined Trent Richardson, Mark Barron, and Josh Chapman on the list of injured players who must wait to impress NFL scouts. Tendonitis in his knee kept Upshaw from Wednesday’s routine 40-yard dash and agility drills, Alabama coach Nick Saban said.

A second pro day for the injured stars is set for March 29 in Tuscaloosa. And there will be plenty of money to make then, too.

The Wednesday crowd of NFL executives and coaches lacked the star power compared to recent years. General managers from the Steelers and the Titans attended, but not a single head coach was spotted. A few former Tide players watched from the sideline including Rolando McClain, a trimmed down Andre Smith, and Mike Johnson.

Kirkpatrick, a potential top-10 pick, was the top draw. He didn’t run the 40-yard dash after recording a 4.51 at the combine in Indianapolis.

The cornerback said he wasn’t worried about his January arrest on marijuana possession charges affecting his draft status. The charges were later dropped.

His goal for Wednesday was simple.

“Pretty much dominate all the goals in front of me,” Kirkpatrick said. “Pretty much everything is one the line.”

And he didn’t hold much back. During one cornerback drill, Kirkpatrick dove and slid across the unforgiving plastic turf chasing an overthrown pass.

Hightower also skipped the 40-yard dash after running a 4.68 in Indianapolis, but did the workouts despite “not being a drill guy,” he said.

The middle linebacker was a dieter, though. He lost 10 pounds since the season ended and weighed in at 265 pounds Wednesday.

“I was a little less than that, but I had to eat breakfast this morning,” a smiling Hightower said.

He’ll return for another round of workouts when the injured players take their turn later this month.

For Menzie, Wednesday’s workout was huge. He wasn’t happy with the 4.74-second 40-yard dash he ran at the combine, so the 4.66 he ran in Tuscaloosa was a statement.

“I just didn’t feel like I could express myself at the combine,” Menzie said.

Still, workouts like Wednesday’s were just part of his résumé.

“I think my tape says it all,” he said.

For others, an audition in front of so many NFL scouts was a special opportunity that doesn’t come around very often. Athens product Alfred McCullough played nearly every position on the line at Alabama, but only had 10 starts.

He felt good about his showing at pro day, but remains unsure about his draft stock.

“I really don’t even know,” he said. “I never know what’s going to happen when draft time comes. It might be good. It might not. I just have to be humble about it and just wait.”

Offensive lineman John Michael Boswell, who never started a game at Alabama, also took part Wednesday. Other offensive participants included center William Vlachos, tight end Brad Smelley, and receivers Marquis and Darius Hanks.

On defense, linebackers Jerrell Harris and Alex Watkins joined lineman Nick Gentry and cornerback Phelon Jones for the workout.

Now that attention shifts to the end of the month when a few more projected first-round picks take a swing at impressing the pro scouts.

“Things seem to be a little accelerated this year,” Saban said. “There wasn’t a lot of time between when we last played and the Senior Bowl, and then the combine. I think having our spring break early and our pro day is a little earlier, so to give these guys a little time, Mark and Trent to come back from their injuries, I think is probably a positive thing for those guys.”
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