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March 20, 2008

Pro Day make or break time for Pack players

Fifteen North Carolina State football players took advantage of trying to impress NFL scouts at the Wolfpack Pro Day.

Most of the players working out Wednesday had the built-in pressure of Pro Day being a make or break event.

Outside of safety DaJuan Morgan and defensive tackle DeMario Pressley, none of the Wolfpack players are guaranteed a draft spot, though most will get invited to some NFL team's training camp.

Wide receiver/return man Darrell Blackman was one of the players that is right on the bubble of getting drafted. Blackman gifts as a punt and kick returner could make him a valuable commodity for a team trying to fill a niche on the roster.

Blackman caught punts from a football machine and also kickoffs from former teammate Steven Hauschka during the drill portion of Pro Day. One drill had Blackman lie down on the ground, and then get up locate the punt and make the catch, which he handled smoothly.

Blackman didn't get invited to the NFL combine, but he did play in The Nation vs. Texas All-Star game Feb. 2 in El Paso, Texas, and returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. For someone who will have to make the NFL on his return skills, it was a great boost to his resume.

"It was like returning kicks at NC State," said Blackman who returned two punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns in his Wolfpack career. "That was my mindset, just thinking I was on my old team at NC State and running at my old stadium, Carter-Finley Stadium."

Blackman admitted it did sting a little bit when he didn't get selected for the combine. Todd McShay of Scouts Inc., listed him as the No. 3 combine snub on ESPN.com.

"I was a little disappointed, but I didn't get down on myself," Blackman said. "I just thought I had to work even harder at training and getting better at my techniques when I found out I didn't get invited."

Blackman put up solid numbers at NC State's pro day, running a 4.59 in the 40-yard dash, 38.5 inches in the vertical jump and benched 225 pounds 14 times.

"I just wanted the chance at our own pro day at our own school, where we felt comfortable," said Blackman, who has run 4.4s during his training sessions. "I just want to show what I can do and prove that I can play with the best of them."

Defensive end Martrel Brown is another player who needed to prove something at Pro Day, and he helped his cause with a solid workout.

Brown checked in at 6-1 and 254 pounds, and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.92 seconds, benched pressed 225 pounds 22 times and sported an impressive 36.5-inch vertical jump.

"This was very important in my situation," Brown said. "I didn't have the senior season that I wanted to have. I thought I did well and I hope someone will call me and give me a shot, so I can get in there."

Brown was surprised by his vertical jump and was pleased overall with his numbers. He's been training in Atlanta since graduation, but the waiting game is the next step in his draft process, leading up to April 26-27.

"You have to be nervous, especially with the situation I was in," Brown said. "I didn't have a real good season. My numbers were OK, but they could have been better. I'm just going to wait and pray. I just want to get into a camp."

Brown doesn't want to think about life without playing football, but plans to coach if he can't make a professional league somewhere in the world - NFL, Canada, Arena, etc.

"I want to play in the NFL, but wherever makes money for me," Brown said.

Free safety Miguel Scott and cornerback Jimmie Sutton III were other players who have been looking forward to impressing the NFL scouts. Both had up-and-down senior seasons following the coaching change.

Scott, who has been training in Orlando, Fla., worked out well with an unofficial time of 4.56 in the 40-yard dash, getting a vertical jump at 38.5 inches and bench pressing 225 pounds 18 times. Scott like Sutton, was demoted for younger players, and needed a quality performance on pro day to get invited to an NFL training camp.

Sutton III has trained in Saddle River, N.J., with Blackman. He admitted his confidence was down following the season, but hopes to get a chance somewhere, whatever league it might be.

"I still view myself as an NFL corner," Sutton said prior to working out. "My confidence has been boosted in the offseason. It's tough when you are a senior and a [redshirt] freshman [DeAndre Morgan] is in front of you.

"I've been working out pretty intensely. My focus has been to get better at everything. My footwork has really improved."

Sutton III hopes to use his sports management degree to run a sports facility in the future. He ran a unofficial 4.54 in the 40-yard dash and said he's been clocked at 4.4 during his training.

"I just want an opportunity to prove myself and let people know who I am," Sutton III said. "I'm more confident now. I'm already at the top of my game. I don't think the NFL guys know as much about me. The NFL is the goal."



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