At UT pro day, players vying for NFL job interview

Pro day last audition for NFL hopefuls

Teammates cheer Ben Bartholomew as he does his bench press at Tennessee's annual pro timing day Wednesday, Mar. 20, 2013 at the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center, allowing National Football League scouts the opportunity to see first-hand the abilities of recent UT players. Eighteen former Volunteers were vying for spots in the April 25 NFL Draft by participating in seven events in front of representatives from nearly every NFL team.  (MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Michael Patrick, copyright © 2013

Teammates cheer Ben Bartholomew as he does his bench press at Tennessee's annual pro timing day Wednesday, Mar. 20, 2013 at the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center, allowing National Football League scouts the opportunity to see first-hand the abilities of recent UT players. Eighteen former Volunteers were vying for spots in the April 25 NFL Draft by participating in seven events in front of representatives from nearly every NFL team. (MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL)

Cordarrelle Patterson on UT's Pro Day

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.

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Comments » 7

givehim6 writes:

Iv heard talk about Bray on some sports pages about the Stealers really liking Bray, think they know big Ben is in his 11th hour.

DukeDeLuca2 writes:

Tyler Bray an NFL quarterback? Get real.

TNVol71 writes:

Good luck to all of these Vols. I am sure it is the chance of a lifetime. Hope they can all reach their dreams. While UT didn't post good won-loss numbers, there were some outstanding individual performances by each of these young men. Best of luck. Go Vols!!

PUL4VOLS writes:

Bray's arm is not a problem at all. It is that gray matter(which matters)or lack thereof that could hurt chances of an NFL team taking a chance on him. With the dry feel of qbs coming out this year, he may do better in the draft than many of us think. While I wish him well, I also think it will be a long, long time of clipboard management before he plays much on Sundays. But I am no expert and truly wish all the former Vols well as they pursue their fondest dream of playing in the NFL!

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Wish Bray the best.

Did well to have no D help.

Near 80 pts vs Ga and SC and lose?

Lawdy

vollyball writes:

LOL Ben Bartholomew will last about the same amount of time his brother did in a NFL camp. A week at best.

WestCoastPowellVoter writes:

in response to DukeDeLuca2:

Tyler Bray an NFL quarterback? Get real.

Bray would fit in with the Steelers... look at Big Ben. He's a classic meat head who's been accused multiple times of sexual assault. You think he would learn how to avoid questionable situations after the first handful of rape accusations. Bray throws beer bottles and the the occasional pick, but represents a step of for the Steelers in terms of class.

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