STATE COLLEGE —
Shuttle runs. Forty-yard dashes. Broad jumps.
After running through pro day Monday at Penn State before about 20 NFL scouts, defensive tackle Jordan Hill is finally done with the kinds of drills and agility tests required for most draft prospects.
“How many times have you ever seen me jump in a game,” Hill asked rhetorically with a chuckle to reporters after his workout.
Hill and linebacker Gerald Hodges are probably the Nittany Lions’ two best draft prospects. The seniors helped guide a tough defense that helped Penn State finish 8-4 in coach Bill O’Brien’s first year.
For known commodities like Hill, who was invited to the NFL combine, Monday presented a chance to improve on particular skills. Hill said he decreased his 40-yard dash time to 4.97 seconds. And he went 111 inches in the broad jump, seven better than in Indianapolis at the combine.
The difference? More rest, and less stress than in hectic Indianapolis.
He doesn’t mind the agility tests. It’s just that there’s more pressure when dozens of scouts, executives and media are breaking down your every move. And he’s doing all of this, while also finishing up his degree requirements.
When asked about the end of the process, Hill said “he was more relieved than anything else. Just because I get to do the stuff (now) that I’ve been doing my whole life.”
Hill has been mentioned as a possible third- or fourth-round pick. Hodges said he’s hoping to go in the second or third.
Hodges said his main goal on Monday was to “just come out here and be a little sharper on the drills ... I just wanted to get out there and look a little fresher coming into the day.”
The athletic Hodges said he was measured for a 35.1-inch vertical jump on Monday. He’s had interviews, he said, with Detroit, Oakland, Baltimore, Minnesota and Tampa Bay, among other teams.
Hodges is hoping his ability to learn the tweaked defensive system under O’Brien will help show NFL scouts he can pick up new schemes quickly.
“I’m not nervous any more. I feel that all the pressure is off my shoulders,” Hodges said. “I’m waiting for the day that I can suit up in an NFL uniform.”
Hodges combined with fellow senior Michael Mauti to form one of the best outside linebacker duos in the country. But Mauti missed the emotional 24-21 win in the season finale over Wisconsin after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, the third injury to a knee in his otherwise impressive Penn State career.
Considered a second- or even late first-round pick at one point, the latest injury could concern teams. “His medical exams are going to be crucial to his draft stock,” according to an analysis on NFL.com.
Mauti underwent surgery that was performed by Steelers orthopedic surgeon James Bradley. He’s still on the recovery trail, and didn’t take part in Monday’s workout. But he did meet with about five NFL scouts.
“It really is the biggest job interview as a football player,” Mauti said. “That’s not an exaggeration.”
Doctors say his recovery is ahead of schedule. He said he was confident he would be ready for NFL training camp this summer. Either way, Mauti’s leadership qualities remain unquestioned. The fiery, hard-nosed player is considered perhaps one of the best leaders to ever come out of Penn State.
Quarterback Matt McGloin was Mauti’s roommate during their freshman year and one of the leaders on offense as a senior. The rags-to-riches story of the former walk-on from Scranton is now well-known in Pennsylvania after McGloin set several passing records in his only season under O’Brien, the former offensive coordinator of the Patriots.
McGloin wasn’t invited to the combine, but did play in the Texas vs. The Nation all-star game last month. Hill, Hodges, Mauti and center Matt Stankewitch were the four Nittany Lions who took part in the combine.
“For guys that didn’t get to the combine, this was a great opportunity for them,” Mauti said. “You can tell those guys are training hard. I’m proud of them.”
McGloin said he’s concentrated the last few months on getting quicker, losing a little weight and working on footwork and mechanics.
“I showed I had the arm strength capable of playing at the next level. I thought my footwork looked good, but it’s just the way I felt,” McGloin said after his workout. “It only takes one team to fall in love with you.”