LSU Pro Day is an annual event built around budding stars and soon-to-be first-round picks at a school that has become nationally renowned for producing them.
It attracts representation from all 32 NFL franchises, including a number of head coaches and general managers. There was plenty of star power at the 2018 edition, but the hoard of NFL personnel types on hand were also treated to intriguing showings from a handful of under-the-radar talents.
Here’s a look at three players who certainly helped their draft stock with strong showings on Wednesday:
- Russell Gage
Most guys grow up dreaming on catching the game-winning touchdown. Gage is seemingly primed to make a career out of making clutch special teams tackles and downing punts inside the 10-yard line.
Gage’s expertise in the game’s third phase was also going to make him intriguing for NFL teams as a potential undrafted free agent, but being drafted outright doesn’t seem so far-fetched anymore after the show Gage put on at LSU Pro Day.
Gage posted a blazing 4.42-second time in the 40-yard dash and a ridiculous 39-inch vertical jump —hardly a surprise given his penchant for hurdling defenders with reckless abandon.
Snubbed from NFL Combine, Gage credited internal motivation and extra time to prepare for his strong showing at Pro Day.
“I looked at it as an opportunity to grind even more,” Gage said. “Those were an extra two months for me to work on what I needed to work on. Get faster, get stronger. So I’m thankful for it at the end of the day.”
NFL scouts were complementary of Gage’s measurables and improved route running skills in individual drills, but special teams remain his bread and butter.
The converted defensive back was an ace gunner on the punt team for LSU this season, and as Pro Day winded down, he was spotted catching punts from scouts on a back field outside the Football Ops Building.
“The way I look at it, I’m an offensive guy with a defensive mindset,” Gage said. “Even though I’m a receiver, when I play special teams, that defensive side comes out of me. So the aggressive side is easy for me. It’s easy to make tackles and avoid blocks.”
- Darrel Williams
There’s no question Darrel Williams has the power, receiving skills and pass protection to play running back at the NFL level.
After Pro Day, there’s less questions about his speed, too.
A noticeably slimmer Williams vastly improved on the 4.72-second 40-yard dash he posted at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Williams was clocked at 4.65 seconds in his first run and 4.59 in his second, which elicited quite the commotion from his teammates on the sideline.
“I was on Darrel so hard at the Combine,” fellow running back Derrius Guice laughed. “He lost weight from there to now, and I told him he better run faster now. He got that 4.59, so I’m excited for Darrel.”
- Christian LaCouture
Christian LaCouture wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine despite a solid showing at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, but it seems like he put any frustration about that snub to good use.
LaCouture put up a monstrous 41 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press while the next closest Tiger, fellow defensive lineman Frank Herron, managed 25.
Only two players broke the 40-rep benchmark — pardon the pun — at this year’s NFL Combine: Washington’s Vita Vea (41) and Stanford’s Harrison Phillips.
“It’s crazy,” LSU defensive lineman Greg Gilmore said of his friend and teammate. “But you know what? I’ve seen him lift more than that. Christian is strong, man.”
Football is becoming more and more a game of speed, quickness and technique, but there will always be a place for a strong man in the trenches.