On most mornings at Apogee Stadium, Dan McCarney is in the thick of the action, directing players and coaches while trying to capitalize on every ounce of talent his latest team possesses.
This time around, on a warm and windy Wednesday morning, North Texas’ coach had a chance to stand and watch scouts run his players through drills on one of the busiest pro days in recent memory for the Mean Green.
McCarney, not to mention the players who had their shot to perform for NFL scouts, couldn’t have been happier with the results.
There were a total of 20 NFL officials on hand to time and talk to UNT’s players, representing the biggest turnout in a McCarney tenure that is heading into its fourth season. The NFL draft will take place from May 8-10.
“It’s a really good turnout — the best since I have been here,” McCarney said. “And it should be. When you win nine games, you have guys who are doing good things. It’s nice to see them come out here and compete. We hope and pray that a number of them get an opportunity to play at the next level.”
That is the hope for a host of UNT players who participated in the workout, which offered them an opportunity to make an impression in the traditional pro day setting. The Mean Green’s seniors ran the 40-yard dash, three-cone drill and shuttle in addition to completing other drills including the bench press, where players saw how many reps they could complete at 225 pounds.
The day wrapped up with positional drills. Quarterback Derek Thompson threw to his former teammates, while wide receiver Brelan Chancellor fielded punts.
“I thought I had a really good day and put the ball where it needed to be,” Thompson said. “If I missed, I missed on the right side of the receiver. Overall, it was a really good day. It’s good to be back out here with the guys.”
Chancellor posted a 41-inch vertical jump and a broad jump of 10 feet, 1 inch. Both were personal bests. Chancellor’s vertical jump would have tied for fourth overall at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.
“I thank God for the opportunity to try to showcase my skills,” Chancellor said. “I sure hope I gave myself a chance to get drafted.”
UNT has not had a player picked since the Oakland Raiders selected Cody Spencer in the sixth round of the 2004 draft.
UNT has had several players play in the NFL since then, including Cleveland Browns linebacker Craig Robertson and Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar. Both came to watch UNT’s seniors work out and chase their dreams.
Several of those seniors played key roles in a breakout season that saw the Mean Green finish 9-4 and beat UNLV in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
“I wanted to come out and support the guys,” Dunbar said. “Pro day was very big for me. It was my day to shine and prove myself. It helped me to show the scouts that I had speed.”
Chancellor showed his speed while posting a top 40-yard dash time of 4.50.
What was more challenging for Chancellor were some of the punt return drills former UNT player and current Denver Broncos special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers put him through. Chancellor had to chase punts all over the field and catch them while dealing with a host of distractions, including holding another ball in his hands.
Chancellor said he had never gone through some of the drills until Wednesday.
What was particularly pleasing for McCarney was the way his players performed in front of NFL scouts.
“Not all of these guys are going to get a chance to play at the NFL level, but none of them looked out of place,” McCarney said. “They all tested well.”
McCarney and his players wanted to perform well, not only to bolster the chances of UNT breaking its draft drought but also to help improve the program’s reputation.
Now the wait is on to see if the Mean Green’s top players, including Chancellor and linebacker Zach Orr, did enough to lead a team to select them in the draft.
“It was a really good day for us,” Chancellor said. “Everyone came out here and worked hard. Now it’s just a waiting game. I hope this is the year we get someone drafted. It would be good for the school and the program to show that we have guys who can play.”