The stars were out in full display on Thursday at the Mo Center for Oregon’s Pro Day, both on the field and off. In the annual showcase for NFL scouts, Oregon seniors set out one last time in an attempt to woo them. Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, who owns the number one overall pick in April’s draft, was among those in attendance. While no Duck is projected to go that high, the player getting the most buzz, Dion Jordan, made his presence known — albeit not on the playing field.
On a day designed to showcase the athletes’ abilities on the field of play, Jordan stole the show off the field.
The rangy, 6’6″ outside linebacker, who some scouts have projected as high as number four in the draft, drew a throng of media attention everywhere he went Thursday, often overshadowing the action that was taking place just behind him. Jordan, coming off surgery for his injured shoulder suffered during the Colorado game this season, took the NFL combine by storm three weeks ago in his last public display before the draft in April.
When asked if he was disappointed about missing Pro Day, Jordan said he is focusing on the progress his shoulder is making, but was a little sad he wasn’t able to compete.
“I’m a little disappointed; you know, I always enjoy coming out doing work with my guys, but I have to take care of my body. Getting healthy is important,” he said.
While Jordan’s stock will remain sky-high despite the injury, Thursday provided an opportunity for other players to make a name for themselves. As expected, they came through.
Kenjon Barner was fast. Michael Clay was big. Kyle Long was oozing potential all over the field.
Long, son of NFL Hall of Famer Howie Long, seemed more at home in front of the media than anybody, cracking jokes about his family’s lineage in the NFL, which now includes his brother Chris, a lineman for the St. Louis Rams. When asked if he felt any pressure leading up to the combine or the Pro Day, Long matter of factly said, “We’re athletes, so we come out here and we just try to do the best we can.”
After only one season at Oregon, Long appears headed for a long NFL career, and he showcased the skills necessary Thursday. Displaying uncanny agility and speed for a man his size, the raw lineman — whose stock is rising in the eyes of NFL scouts — only performed a couple of drills, letting his impressive performance at the combine do the majority of the talking.
Kenjon Barner, whose size has been brought into question, was blistering in the 40-yard dash, clocking an unofficial 4.38. With his best friend — and former Duck — LaMichael James on hand, Barner was pleased with his performance.
“It went good. I wanted to be in the 4.3’s; I hit 4.38. I was very disappointed at the combine, so this was good.”
When asked if having James in attendance motivated him, Barner gave a sly smile and simply said, “It’s nice seeing him back at Oregon.”
Michael Clay, the unquestioned leader of the Oregon defense this past season, garnered the most attention on the field, as he showed up displaying a new chiseled physique, weighing in at 230 pounds — roughly 12 higher than his playing weight. It didn’t seem to hamper his play, however, as he clocked an impressive 4.71 in the 40-yard dash.
Clay’s friend and running mate Kiko Alonso also appeared to have gained some major upper-body size, while showing good hip control on the agility drills. Some other players who are not expected to make NFL rosters (Will Murphy and Rasaan Vaughn, specifically) showed good straight away speed in the 40.
Where these players land in the draft remains to be seen. Only Jordan is expected to be a top-10 pick — and the fourth pick belongs to his former coach, Chip Kelly. One thing was made clear at Pro Day, however: the guys who do get picked up later in the draft — namely Clay, Alonso and Barner — look like they are prepared to make an impact.
Joel Gunderson grew up in a small town, where the only thing he did for fun was worship the Oregon Ducks. He later moved to Eugene, where he studied journalism at the U of O. After working in radio, he married the woman of his dreams and settled down. Joel now spends his days studying Journalism and the fine world of grammar, all the while worshiping the ground that Charles “Chip” Kelly walks on! Follow him on twitter @gundy85
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