SEATTLE — NFL scouts and front-office personnel poured through the doors of the Dempsey indoor practice facility on Thursday morning, forming the biggest crowd to watch a Pro Day workout in recent history at the University of Washington.
They were there to see Marcus Peters, the former Huskies cornerback who projects as one of the top prospects at his position in this year’s NFL draft.
They were there to see Shaq Thompson, the versatile linebacker who also went through some defensive back drills and could play safety at the next level.
They were there to see Danny Shelton, the massive nose tackle who could be a top-10 pick. And to see Hau’oli Kikaha, the outside linebacker who set UW’s career and single-season sack records last year and could hear his name called in the first two days of the draft.
Sixteen other former Huskies worked out, too — including quarterback Keith Price and receiver Kasen Williams — with the hope that they might catch the eye of someone in that big crowd drawn by their star-studded peers.
“The program is coming up,” Shelton said. “We’re definitely working with something here. We definitely have the talent here. We just need an opportunity.”
Shelton, Peters, Thompson and Kikaha will certainly get that opportunity. All four are sure to be drafted. Shelton will certainly be a first-rounder, with some analysts projecting him to be selected as high as No. 7 overall. Peters could also go in the first round. Thompson and Kikaha shouldn’t have to wait much longer.
So this Pro Day wasn’t necessarily an end-all, be-all affair for UW’s brightest stars. Kikaha, for example, was the only one of the four who even ran the 40-yard dash. Shelton, Thompson and Peters all stuck with their numbers from the NFL scouting combine, each with little left to prove before the draft begins April 30.
“Hopefully, I can hand in my film and then say, ‘here’s what I can do,’ and that’s about it,” Kikaha said. “Move smooth in space and show I’m versatile, and play on (special) teams. Not much else that I can do now. Everything’s in the books, training-wise. They’ve seen all they want of me physically. But if they want to meet with me and see what kind of person I am, that’s probably the final decision-maker, I guess.”
Thompson said he appreciated the chance to take the field again with his old teammates — John Timu, Evan Hudson and Andrew Hudson among them — but that he’s ready to be drafted and end what he said has been a fairly grueling workout process.
“This process is crazy, just tiring. I’m not going to lie to you,” Thompson said. “Just a lot of stress put on you, meeting with teams and stuff like that, doing all the workouts, and I just can’t wait for it to be over and have a home team somewhere else.”
Peters might have had the most impressive workout, prompting CBSSports.com analyst Rob Rang to write that Peters was “especially impressive, showing excellent fluidity and ball skills.”
It was somewhat of a momentous occasion for Peters, who was dismissed from the UW program by coach Chris Petersen in early November after he repeatedly clashed with the new coaching staff. But he made amends with Petersen and was allowed to join his former teammates at Pro Day.
“It’s great to see him,” Shelton said. “It’s great to see everybody else out here.”
That includes Williams, who was once considered a strong NFL prospect before a nasty leg injury ended his junior season in 2013 and limited his capabilities as a senior in 2014. He ran a 4.52-second 40-yard dash on Thursday and posted a 351/2-inch mark in the vertical leap — just OK, he said — and felt good about the routes and passes he caught from Price during his position workout.
“I think I turned some heads and had some people focusing on me,” Williams said, “which is exactly what I wanted.
“You only need one team to fall in love with you. I can be that guy to get drafted in the third round and everyone there starts booing because they don’t know anything about me, and that’s fine with me. Seventh round, that’s fine with me. Free agent, I don’t care. I just want to get there and show that I deserve to be there.”
He can thank his teammates for the chance to do that in front of so many scouts.
Shelton said he’s still waiting to hear whether or not he’ll be invited to the NFL draft in Chicago. As a potential top-10 pick, the safe assumption is that he will be. But he said “it’s all just waiting right now,” and he’s still on campus at UW attending classes. He said he’s flying to Cleveland next week for a visit with the Browns. Several mock drafts project him to be drafted No. 7 overall by the Chicago Bears. … Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider were in attendance, as well as several other Seahawks assistants and scouts. Thompson had a long chat with Schneider following his workout. … Other former Huskies who worked out: James Atoe, Jesse Callier, DiAndre Campbell, Mike Criste, Travell Dixon, Mike Hartvigson, Micah Hatchie, Jon Kwon, Taz Stevenson, Everrette Thompson and Tre Watson.