NEW LOOK, SAME BOND
The former Tennessee pitch and catch combination of Tyler Bray and Cordarrelle Patterson returned to campus Wednesday to participate in UT's annual Pro Timing Day. The duo, which accounted for 778 yards and five touchdowns during their single season together on Rocky Top, returned to The Hill each sporting a new look.
Bray stepped onto the turf at the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center weighing in at 230 pounds, 21 pounds heavier than when he was completed for the Volunteers.
"I feel like I've gotten stronger, and I have a little bit more zip on the ball," said Bray. "I don't necessarily feel the difference, as far as moving around, but my core is definitely stronger."
While his counterpart, Patterson, who packed on an additional 11 pounds of his own since wearing the orange and white, took to the turf donning a pair of neon socks that set him apart from other competitors.
"Tyler and I were throwing together all week, and we came in and worked hard together today," said Patterson. "A lot has changed, but it's always great to be back running around my teammates."
"Right now, all we are focused on is working hard and hoping that we get drafted."
THE JOB INTERVIEW OF A LIFETIME
Though he competed previously in most of the drills at the NFL Combine, Justin Hunter used Pro Day as a chance to better those results.
Hunter, with a little help from Da'Rick Rogers, decided to give it another go at the vertical and broad jumps, and in doing so set new PRs in the events.
The wide receiver extended his vertical from 39.5 to 40.5 at the Neyland-Thompson Center while adding a couple inches to his broad jump with an 11 foot, six inch leap.
"I felt everything went good today," said Hunter. "I PRed in some events, but thought I could have done better in others. I put on four more pounds since the combine so I just wanted to see how my body would work."
Hunter has added motivation when he steps on the gridiron these days as he knows it isn't just him that he is working for.
"When I am out there, I am just basically thinking about me and my son," said Hunter. "He comes first over everybody else. That is all that I am thinking about."
Hunter used those thoughts and put forth his best efforts Wednesday.
"This is the job interview of your life," said Hunter. "That is how you have to treat it."
FOCUSING ON THE FUTURE
Former Vol Dallas Thomas, invited to the NFL combine and at pro day, was unable to compete at either event because of a torn labrum, an injury suffered during Senior Bowl practices back in January.
After suffering the injury, Thomas kept to himself for a while trying to comprehend the situation, but after talking with his family, and NFL GMs he has moved on to rehabbing and getting his shoulder better.
"It has been tough," said Thomas. I've talked to my Mom, my Grandma and everybody so they've helped me get through it. It's over me now. It's in the past and behind me. I'm good, just rehabbing now and getting it back to where it was."
"[The teams] understand and I think it's a pretty common injury in the NFL," continued Thomas. "They told me `I should be fine and just to keep rehabbing it and do the right things. Don't rush it and make sure it's 100 percent before coming back.' They're talking good to me."
Thomas, who will hopefully be returning to action ahead of schedule, looks to be back in time for the NFL training camps.
He believes that his college resume will help him get to the next level and hear his name during the draft.
"I just want to get picked," said Thomas. "I just want to play ball."
FLYING THROUGH PRO DAY
The fastest Vol of the day, wide receiver Zach Rogers, got out and competed in front of all 32 NFL teams at Tennessee's Pro Day Wednesday.
Rogers worked hard during the offseason to emphasize his quickness and improve his pass catching.
"I would say speed and hands," said Rogers. "I tried to focus on that for the last three months getting ready for this today and I thought I had a pretty good showing but there is always room for improvement. I am pretty pleased with today."
What made things easier for Rogers was having one of his closest friends in Tyler Bray throwing him strikes.
"That helped us a tremendous amount," said Rogers. "We came up here about a week and a half ago and we started getting our rhythm back. The first day out here we didn't miss a beat and we were back to old times. It was good to have a good quarterback out here and he did pretty well for himself as well."
Rogers finished the event with the fastest times among the Vols at the event running the 40-yard dash in an unofficial 4.51 seconds, pushing through the 20-yard shuttle in an outstanding 4.34 seconds, highlighting the 60-yard shuttle in 11.18 seconds and finishing the three cone drill in 6.72 seconds.
Rogers knew that pro day was an important one for him, so he went out and gave it his all.
"It was a lot of pressure, I was pretty nervous coming in," said Rogers. "But football is what I have been doing my entire life so it is just another day at the office."
BARTHOLOMEW POSTS GREAT NUMBERS
Former Vols fullback Ben Bartholomew has been anxiously waiting for NFL Pro Day in Knoxville since the end of the 2012 season. When he got to perform in front of the scouts, coaches and general managers on Wednesday, he made the most of his opportunity.
"I feel good. It was fun to get out and compete," said Bartholomew, who has been working out in his native Nashville. "It's something we've all been training for for a long time. It came, and a lot of guys stepped up. It was great."
The Tennessee legacy posted impressing numbers in the bench press with 30 reps, a number bested by just one fullback at the combine, a 20-yard shuttle time of 4.33 and a 4.68 in the 40-yard dash. Standing nearly 6-2 and weighing 245, Bartholomew demonstrated his agility and speed throughout the day.
"Well, I wanted to show my versatility and wanted to show that I can still run a fast 40," said Bartholomew. "I'm able to play tight end, can run routes, and catch balls, and also that I've got the strength to play the fullback position."
"I've been training hard and I did what I knew I was going to do."
As far as what the NFL personnel had to say about his day, Bartholomew was hopeful that he made an impression.
"I think they can definitely see some potential for the hybrid position, because I have the speed to hopefully run past a linebacker and also have the strength that I can get inside and block in the hole," he said. "I'm excited and hopeful for the future. I know it's in God's hands and that's all I can do now."
RIVERA SHOWING HIS WARES
Tight end Mychal Rivera has continued to make improvements after a strong showing at the NFL Combine in February. He shows that early on at UT's Pro Day as he put up 21 reps in the bench press after 17 in Indianapolis.
"Looking at the bench press, I knew my personal number was better than that," said Rivera. "I just want to show these scouts that I can improve. I got 17 reps at the combine so I wanted to come here and get four or five more reps. The work is already put in. They're going to make their decisions and I'm going to live with it."
The California native will be heading back to the West Coast after a few more days in Knoxville, but he was happy with his overall performance as he reconnected with his former Orange & White teammates.
"I feel like my on-field performance went very well," said Rivera. "At the combine, I did very good catching the ball in front of the scouts and I just wanted to come here and be consistent. I wanted to show them I could run fast routes, put my hand up, catch it and accelerate."
He is also trying to demonstrate he can play more than tight end.
"They like my versatility," said Rivera. "They can put me in the backfield at fullback; they can put me on the line as the tight end. They could even put me in the slot or as the wideout. I can play all the different positions."
DA'RICK BACK ON CAMPUS
It was almost like old times for Da'Rick Rogers at Wednesday's NFL Pro Day. He was hanging out and joking around with Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson and catching passes with Tyler Bray. The big difference was where the other three spent the 2012 season. The trio was playing at Neyland Stadium while Rogers was suiting up at Tennessee Tech after being dismissed from the Vols' program just prior to the start of the campaign.
Rogers says he has learned a lot of his time at the FCS level and he hopes it helps him as he looks forward to an NFL career.
"Leaving Tennessee was a wake-up call," said Rogers, who was an All-SEC receiver with UT in 2011. "I had to go to Tennessee Tech and I was humbled. Being there with guys who many times would have killed to be at Tennessee had to humble me and I had to look in the mirror. There was a lot of maturing that I had to do, but I have done those things and I'm in the right direction. I'm making strides to be more mature now."
Rogers has been asked about his personal problems and has taken the approach of being up-front and honest.
"I go in and I tell them that I am not here to defend that bio," said Rogers. "Everything that you have is true, it's real, it's the real deal, I did that. These are the things that I am doing to change that. This is what I have done to become the person I am today. It's progress."
He was happy to be in the familiar confines with friendly faces all around on Wednesday.
"It was definitely my idea to try to get back here because this is a great stage to be on," said Rogers. "There are a lot of great coaches here and a lot of great kids here also. I really wanted to get out here just to show the guys that I have changed and show my maturity to the new coaches to rebuild that connection."
QUARTERBACK TYLER BRAY
(On weight gained)
"I weighed in at the workout the first day as 209 and the last day I was 235 then 232 at the combine. I just ate right and worked out. I have a bit more money to spend on food so I don't eat fast food which helps. I tried to put weight on here but it was hard trying to work on a scholarship check, pay for rent and everything. Food gets left to the 99 cent value menu."
(On the combine and today's work benefitting the future)
"I think I have helped myself out a lot. Most of the throws I am going to make will help me. The interviews are the biggest process for me. I think they are going well. There are a couple of teams I am talking to right now and hopefully we can remain friends and get drafted."
(On what has improved from the combine and Pro Day)
"Footwork. I have improved with my footwork since the season. I improved a little till the combine and a lot after the combine. It just inconsistency. I go out there at the start of the game, my footwork is good. By the middle and to the end it gets sloppy with accuracy all over the place working on footwork helps."
OFFENSIVE LINEMAN DALLAS THOMAS
(On the injury)
“I tore the labrum in my shoulder at the Senior Bowl. It’s good now. I’m ahead of schedule on it and moving along really well. I just want to keep rehabbing it and get it going so I can come back and compete. It’s tough to sit out and watch somebody work out when you know you’re supposed to be out there.”
(On his schedule leading up to the draft)
“I’m working out and rehabbing here. I’ll be here up until draft day and then probably just go home and be with my family for it.”
WIDE RECEIVER ZACH ROGERS
(On playing with his old teammates)
“It felt really good. Playing with these guys, they are unbelievably talented at wideout. We had a good group and we had a good showing today. Our timing was down so that was the main key and I thought we looked pretty smooth.”
(On what the process is right now)
“A lot of phone calls, a lot of interviews, I am just kind of bouncing around with teams just to get a feel for what they want in a wide receiver and try to get an opportunity come the fall.”
(On the feedback from teams)
“It is all pretty much up in the air. I like the feedback that I am getting a lot of positive feedback. So hopefully a team gives me a chance and wants me be in their camp.”
(On what he will do for the draft)
“There is no telling. I will probably just chill at home and watch it on TV and hope something comes up. Again, I just want an opportunity somewhere.”
FULLBACK BEN BARTHOLOMEW
(On if his 40 yard dash time surprised him)
"No, I did some of my better times and distances today which I was excited about.
(On what position he is getting feedback that teams like him)
"Yeah, I think an h-back. Fullback's kind of a dying breed, but that makes them valuable. So the fact that I can be a fullback is definitely going to help me out."
(On if 30 reps on the bench is the most he has ever done)
"I've done a few more. I kind of caught a cramp in the middle of that one but I was glad to hit the big 30 though."
TIGHT END MYCHAL RIVERA
(On working with former Vols today)
“Playing with Tyler (Bray) for three years now, we’re comfortable. I come in and out of my breaks and know when he’s going to throw it. He has great ball placement. It was very comfortable out there running routes with him and the other receivers out there as well.”
WIDE RECEIVER JUSTIN HUNTER
(On what Mike Tomlin said to him)
“He told me that he didn’t even need to move from the sideline. He just said that I was focused a little bit more than I had been.”
(On where he will be drafted)
“I feel like I know it is up to the coaches and just anything can happen. Just have to wait to draft day to see where I go. It would be a weight off my shoulders if I went in the first round. It would be a dream come true.”
(On talking with Da’Rick and CP)
“We talk about it all the time, but we were training in different places. I know Da’Rick and Cordarrelle were in the same place so I just try and make contact with them as much as I could. We got here and started hanging out. We just had dinner together last night and were just talking over everything.”
WIDE RECEIVER DA’RICK ROGERS
(On if he felt pressure to perform during today’s Pro Day)
“There is going to be pressure anywhere. Wherever you have head coaches, NFL scouts and wide receiver coaches out there watching you and right in front of you, it is going to be nerve-wracking. You just have to come out and do you, get into that mental zone and grind.”
(On whether today was optional for him after competing at the NFL Combine)
“Today was not optional at all. Today was just another day for me to come out and grind and show the scouts and NFL teams what I am about. Another look is never a waste.”
(On where he thinks he should go in the NFL Draft)
“I have no preference, any round. If they want to take me in the supplemental draft, I am ready to go. I’m ready to put on a uniform and make my way and earn my way on to a team.”
WIDE RECEIVER CORDARRELLE PATTERSON
(On today’s Pro Day)
“It felt a little different. All your teammates, your former teammates, you’re working with your quarterback. You know how he’s doing. He can put it right on you. I say it was a big difference. I’d say it was better than the combine.”
“This was something serious to me. At the combine, I saw some things that I could improve on, so I came in today and tried to give it my all.”
“Just coming in, like false stepping, putting on the brakes, not using my hands to catch balls. Sometimes I’ve seen myself do that, and my route running, I seem to have gotten better at that today as the day went on at the combine.”
(On hopes for the draft)
“I hope I’ll be a top receiver going out.”