Former Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray brought his typically dry sense of humor to the post-session media scrum after displaying his cannon of an arm for NFL scouts.
Asked about his current outlook heading into next month’s NFL draft, Bray replied with a smile, “It’s whatever Mr. Mayock says it is.”
Mayock is a draft analyst for the NFL Network. For potential early-round picks like Bray and 2012 teammates Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson, the constant din of draft speculation is a part of life.
For players scrambling to earn a late-round draft selection or a free-agent contract that might lead to a roster spot, the goals are more modest: Make an NFL team take notice.
UT had players in both camps Wednesday for its annual pro day. Dozens of NFL scouts, coaches and executives watched as 15 former UT players (and one guest — Austin Peay QB and West High School graduate Jake Ryan) got measured, lifted weights, ran sprints and caught passes.
Bray skipped most of the drills, content to keep his numbers from last month’s NFL combine. Patterson
skipped the 40-yard dash, while Hunter attacked some of the leaping measurements that he could ace as a former track star.
“It’s the biggest job interview of your life,” Hunter said of the NFL draft process. “That’s how you’ve got to treat it.”
If Hunter was interviewing for a job, others were trying to burnish their cover letters.
Fullback Ben Bartholomew emerged from three months of rigorous postseason training with his brother Will, also a former UT player, to weigh in at a rock-solid 245 pounds at just under 6 feet and 2 inches.
He benched 225 pounds a team-high 30 times, then notched an unofficial 40-yard dash time just under 4.7 seconds. He said it was the best mark of his training.
“I’ve been training hard and I did what I knew I could do,” Bartholomew said.
After playing sparingly in his first three seasons at UT, Bartholomew was a steady contributor in 2011 and 2012. In addition to his fullback duties, Bartholomew also caught 11 passes for 102 yards in a hybrid/tight end role.
That versatility is what he’ll try to sell NFL teams on.
“I’m able to play tight end, can run routes, and catch balls, and also that I’ve got the strength to play the fullback position,” he said. “I think (NFL teams) can definitely see some potential for the hybrid position, because I have the speed to hopefully run past a linebacker and also have the strength that I can get inside and block in the hole.”
Former UT tight end Mychal Rivera, who was third on the team with 36 catches last year, has also been a workout warrior since the end of the season, weighing it at 238 pounds on Wednesday.
He improved his bench press total from 17 to 21 from the NFL combine, but kept his combine speed numbers.
“The work’s put in. Now (NFL teams) are going to make their decisions,” Rivera said. “You get some feedback, but you don’t know until draft day.”
For Bray, the wait for draft day could also be anxious, as projections for his draft position vary wildly. But scouts got another demonstration of his powerful arm during pro day workouts, as he fed passes to all his familiar receivers.
Bray weighed in at 229 pounds, about 20 pounds higher than his final UT weight.
The interviews he conducted with team executives, coaches and scouts were probably more important than any passes he threw on Wednesday, Bray said.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Bray had dinner with Pittsburgh Steelers representatives on Tuesday. During the pro day, Bray spent much of his time watching drills while schmoozing with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, the only NFL coach on hand and a friend of UT coach Butch Jones.
Bray said he had more interviews set up for after pro day.
“So hopefully I’ll continue to make friends with them,” he said.
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.