Former Huskers try to impress on 'suit and tie' day

2013-03-07T22:00:00Z 2013-04-23T22:08:05Z Former Huskers try to impress on 'suit and tie' dayBy BRIAN CHRISTOPHERSON / Lincoln Journal star JournalStar.com

It was suit and tie day.

That’s how Will Compton described it.

It was the kind of day that, let’s see, how do we put this? It was the kind of day that could make you lose your breakfast.

That’s how Mike Caputo described it.

And what did Rex Burkhead have to say? His beaming expression Thursday as he met the media after Nebraska’s Pro Day said it all.

“A good day,” he said. “Really good day.”

There’s good reason the former Husker running back said that. NFL scouts told him he posted a 40-yard dash time in the 4.5-second range, much better than the official :04.73 time he had at the NFL Combine.

“No excuses,” Burkhead said of his combine time. “I ran what I ran. Looked at it. Fixed some techniques and ran better today."

And when it came to position drills -- the only other drill Burkhead did Thursday -- he looked quick on the familiar Hawks Championship Center practice surface, displaying good hands as scouts worked him out as a slot receiver and punt returner.

"I definitely did what I wanted to do,” Burkhead said.

Burkhead was having such a good time he had to fight the urge to participate in other drills, even though he posted high marks in those drills at the combine.

“I was kind of wanting to do everything, just seeing other guys competing,” Burkhead said. “I was like, ‘Man, I wonder if I could post a better time or better jump or something.' That’s just the competitor in you.”

Burkhead was among 15 former Huskers who worked out for scouts from at least 13 different NFL teams, including the Packers, Chiefs, Falcons, Saints, Steelers, Raiders and Bengals.

It was Burkhead, Compton and kicker Brett Maher who perhaps did themselves the biggest favors.

Fresh off making 14 of 15 field goals at the combine, Maher drilled all 10 kicks Thursday.

The Kearney native kicked for about a half-hour, producing the kind of results that could put him in draft contention.

"I'm kicking really well right now," Maher said. "I kicked well today, kicked well at the combine. Kicked off really well today. Put a couple back on the end line. Just feel good about how the ball is coming off my foot."

Compton was clearly had an adrenaline rush as he talked to reporters about his day, rattling off his numbers by memory.

A 32-inch vertical jump, a broad jump of 9 feet, 2 inches, a three-cone drill in 6.86 seconds, a 60-yard shuttle run in :11.35, a bench press with 24 repititions.

And a 40 time of 4.54 seconds.

“We never tested 40s here, so that was the real one I wasn’t sure of,” Compton said. “I’ve always done a good job with the (10-yard sprint), things like that … but never did a 100 percent true 40. I was kind of unsure of that.”

His goal was to break :04.60.

Meeting that goal left him ecstatic after spending the last few days full of anxiety.

“I woke up the past couple days, just so anxious, I had to kind of calm down and stuff,” Compton said. “Because, you get nervous. It’s your big interview. It’s your big day. You have to put on your suit and tie and everything.”

Other former Huskers who tested were Kyler Reed, Ben Cotton, P.J. Smith, Cameron Meredith, Daimion Stafford, Joe Carter, Seung Hoon Choi, P.J. Mangieri, Alonzo Whaley, Eric Martin, and two 2011 seniors in Curenski Gilleylen and Caputo.

Reed’s 41-inch vertical jump and 40 time that was said to be in the low 4.4s certainly stood out.

The only downside to Reed’s day was that his hamstring tightened up, taking him out of position drills early.

Smith, meanwhile, was candid in assessing his day. “It wasn’t a good day today, but I will bounce back. I was overthinking a lot of things. It just wasn’t my day.”

The most exciting part of the Pro Day came in the bench press. Many current Huskers watched, exhorting their former teammates to try to get one or two more reps.

Four players had at least 20 reps -- Caputo (35), Choi (32), Compton (24) and Martin (20).

Caputo was not easily recognizable. Now with a head full of hair compared to the shaved look he wore during his Nebraska playing days, he weighed in at 304 pounds. He was closer to 275 as a Husker.

Turns out he could have weighed more.

“I was 308,” Caputo said. “I threw up this morning and ended up weighing in at 304. I was a little upset about that. I would have liked to (have) held the weight.”

The Millard North grad said he decided to come back and try again at Pro Day after a good conversation with the Minnesota Vikings' offensive line coach after a mini camp.

The coach told Caputo he was a good player, but 275 (pounds) wouldn’t last for the season.

Caputo put on weight. Played in the United Football League for four weeks.

“Never got paid. Kind of a rough deal. A little bit like junkyard ball. We had, like, three practices before the first game, and then didn’t practice in the middle of it because we weren’t getting paid and stuff. But anyway …”

Anyway, Caputo made working out and eating his main profession the past year, lifting weights four times a week, trying to strengthen his legs.

“Eating has been a full-time job,” Caputo said. “It’s been gross, to be completely honest.”

But the rest of the journey the past year has been a blessing, he says. A lot of family time. His sister just got married.

And hope remains. He has a regional combine in Baltimore later this month. He also heard some encouraging words Thursday.

“The Raiders' scout told me to keep my dream alive, keep chasing it,” Caputo said. “I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but he seemed supportive of what I’m trying to do.

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