IU Pro Day workouts began with vertical leaps and broad jumps. The draft prospects performing inside Mellencamp Pavilion in Bloomington hope their next jumps are to the NFL.
"I'm definitely excited," said offensive tackle Jason Spriggs. "It's hard to hold back. It's once in a lifetime, the one opportunity that you get. So I'm just trying to make the most out of it.
The 6'6", 301-pound Spriggs showed his athleticism with a vertical leap of 35 inches Friday, backing up the athleticism he showed at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. His 4.94 40-yard dash and 9'7" broad jump in Indianapolis were the best among offensive linemen.
"I think that's the best aspect of my game," said Spriggs. "I think it helped a lot, especially when you look at the combine stuff. That's kind of where I excel. Not only does it help me in that process, that where I excel on the field."
Spriggs is projected as first- or second-round draft pick.
"I try not to think about it a whole lot," said Spriggs, who played at Concord High School in Elkhart. "You try to prepare yourself to get every team to like you and want you. That way you're going to go to the best team possible. It's a dream come true and an opportunity of a lifetime. It means the world to me and my family. So it's probably the biggest moment that's going to happen."
Spriggs is the top prospect in a group of former Hoosiers that worked out for NFL scouts Friday. The group also included wide receiver Andre Booker, tight end Michael Cooper, running back Jordan Howard, defensive tackle Darius Latham, nose tackle Adarius Rayner, center Jake Reed, linebacker Zack Shaw and quarterback Nate Sudfeld.
"I thought it was awesome," said Sudfeld, IU's career leader in passing yards (7,879) and touchdown passes (81). "It was fun to come out and compete, get with guys I'm familiar with and cheer each other on and show what we can do."
Sudfeld recorded a vertical leap of 29.5 inches and broad jump of 9'3" before throwing more than 60 passes in a complete route tree workout.
"I wasn't really too concerned about particular numbers," said Sudfeld. "I just wanted to do the best I could and show that I'm not afraid to do anything and I'll compete at whatever. Just kind of looking forward to seeing where and if I go."
Sudfeld was asked if he was confident he will be selected in the April 28-30 NFL Draft in Chicago.
"I'm not worried about that," said Sudfeld. "I'm really not. I know myself and wherever I go, I'll get an opportunity somewhere. Wherever I go, I'm going to outwork whoever is there and be the best player and teammate I can be. Eventually my goal is to be a starter in the NFL. I don't care how I get there, but I'm going to put in the work to get there."
Sudfeld's parents, Ralph and Michelle, came all the way from their home in Northern California to attend Nate's Pro Day workout.
"It's kind of crazy," said Michelle. "It's definitely a unique opportunity that he has. But I think he has a good head on his shoulders and we're just excited for him."
The Sudfelds' son Zach is a tight end with the New York Jets who played college football at Nevada. Zach was not drafted. Nate might not be either.
"I think I'm learning that it's better to have no expectations and then just be happy," said Michelle.
"We've been through this before," said Ralph Sudfeld. "I think that you can't go by anything that you hear or follow in the media. I think that you just hope that he gave it his best effort. I think he did a good job here today. You hope that he gets his name called. I know he'd like to get his name called. I know he's put in the time, but it is the business of football. I know he'll end up somewhere on a team, as did his brother Zach. I think in that setting he can really show what he can do."
Running back Jordan Howard ran a 4.50 40-yard dash Friday.
"I'm just very excited," said Howard, a first-team All-Big Ten performer in his only season with the Hoosiers in 2015. "With the draft you never know what's going to happen. It's so unpredictable. I'm just being patient and waiting for a team to draft me. It only takes one team to like me, so I'm just going to wait it out and be patient."
Howard transferred to Indiana last year after UAB shut down its football program. He missed 18 quarters with injuries last season, but still finished second in the Big Ten with 134.8 rushing yards a game. He is turning pro after his junior season.
"I just feel like everything I've been through is a part of God's plan and made me better through it all," said Howard. "I might not have liked it, but it made me better in the long run. I feel like everything has paid off and it was a blessing in disguise."
Indiana coach Kevin Wilson says the NFL scouts are evaluating character as much as performances at pro days.
"They've seen a bunch of tape," said Wilson. "They know if he's a good player. Sometimes you're getting a personality trait, because when you watch film, it stops and starts, stops and starts. You don't get a lot of personality of what's going on. So some of today's deal is just watching them interact with people. How do they respond if they drop a pass or do a drill wrong? How competitive are they and how tough are they? Even though they're not hitting, you're getting some statistical number judgments. But you're also getting a little bit of judgment if this is a coachable kid and a kid you want in your environment."