Towson University has not been known for breeding many NFL players, but that has not kept the scouts from showing up in bunches at the Tigers annual Pro Day.
Twenty-three different teams sent representatives to Johnny Unitas Stadium to evaluate the NFL hopefuls with the most notable name in attendance being Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh. Rob Ambrose, the head coach at Towson, was happy to see the turnout for his group of seniors.
"“I recall many moons ago when there wasn’t anybody coming to see our guys, and if there was, it was a very limited number. With team success comes individual accolades, and we’ve had a lot of success over the last five years. These guys have earned the respect, both on and off the field, that has allowed days like today to happen.”"
Towson has not created many NFL prospects over the years, but has produced some talent in players like punter Sean Landeta, running back Dave Megget and current Bears offensive lineman Jermon Bushrod. That has changed over the past two seasons.
Last season, much of the focus surrounded running back Terrance West, a terrific FCS running back that was drafted in the third round by the Cleveland Browns. Today, much of the hype surrounding Towson’s Pro Day was centered on Ryan Delaire, a 2014 third-team All-American and a two-time All-Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) first team selection. The Bloomfield, Conn. native finished with 11 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss in his senior season. He was also a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award which is awarded to the best defensive player in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). He is projected to be a mid-to-late round pick.
Delaire’s performance at the combine was underwhelming, largely in part to injury. He had gone under two knee surgeries, including a procedure three weeks before the workouts. He completed the 40-yard dash in 4.95 and pulled his groin while running. He was forced to sit out the rest of the drills.
Today, he was able to do everything that was asked from him, including posting an unofficial 4.7 on his 40 and participating in all drills.
“I feel like our program is on the rise with a lot of players coming in who want to be in the NFL,” Smith said. “Our coaches are helping them develop to be in the NFL, and also to be great people while they’re here at Towson.”
“I felt really comfortable about today,” Delaire said. “I was healed and my body felt really good, so I felt like I had a day to show out.”
Cornerback Tye Smith is also drawing interest around the league, including a surprise invite to the NFL Combine in March. He has the ability to shut down opposing wide receivers, and was a 2014 All-CAA selection as well. A three-year starter, Smith finished his collegiate career with 312 tackles, fifth most in Tigers history, six interceptions and 25 passes defended. He is projected as a late-round draft pick or a top undrafted rookie.
“I just want a shot,” Smith said. “I want one team to give me an opportunity to go out there and play football.”
Three other players also participated in the Tigers’ Pro Day, but are long shots to make an NFL roster. Wide receivers Derrick Joseph and Spencer Wilkins and defensive end Drew Cheripko also measured and ran drills.
It is not coincidence that Tigers are suddenly drawing interest from NFL scouts. Coach Ambrose has turned Towson into one of the more respectable programs in the FCS, including a trip to the FCS National Championship game a season ago. Delaire was happy about the turnout, and praised his coaches for all that they have done in helping the seniors reach this day.
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“It means a lot,” Smith said of the attendance. “I feel like our program is on the rise with a lot of players coming in who want to be in the NFL. Our coaches are helping them develop to be in the NFL, and also to be great people while they’re here at Towson.”
While reluctant to see them go, Ambrose knows that his group will be a successful one.
“Knowing these guys as I do from watching them grow up and grow within the program, it’s a prideful moment that they’re representing this institution and this program and will continue to do so on the next level. And the great part about it is, I know they’re going to do it with class.”
Tomorrow, the focus shifts to just down I-95 as scouts will head to College Park for the University of Maryland’s Pro Day.