Kyle Friend thought he deserved an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine to workout in front of executives, coaches and scouts from all 32 NFL teams.
The first team all-American Athletic Conference was not selected to participate in the event, and he used the snub as fuel to prepare for when he did have the opportunity to perform in front of NFL personnel.
On Wednesday, Friend and 16 other Owls completed drills in front of scouts representing 26 NFL teams at the Student Pavilion.
“At first I was a little upset, as I think anyone would be,” Friend said of his absence from the combine. “But I’m a person that’s not gonna sit around and mope about it. I think I used it as a little motivation and just controlled what I could control and just moved on, worked on what I needed to do to have a good day today.”
Friend made sure he stood out on Wednesday, benching 225 pounds 41 times during the weight room portion of the workout.
“One of the scouts said, ‘How many do you think he’s going to get?” linebacker Tyler Matakevich said. “I said 40 plus. He said, ‘No way.’ He goes out and does it. This guy looks at me like I’m crazy.”
“Kyle is a tremendous football player, coach Matt Rhule added.” But for people to see how fast he is, how well he jumped and how strong he is, I think it just opens more eyes.”
Matakevich, defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis and defensive back Tavon Young all worked out at the NFL Combine, held in Indianapolis in Lucas Oil Stadium from Feb. 23-29.
For their teammates, Wednesday was one of the only opportunities they had to perform in front of professional scouts.
Rhule said along with the mental and physical evaluations of the Pro Day, scouts can see how players respond to coaching as well as their versatility.
“Test them in some drills, see how they react to the pressure of drills and getting on them,” Rhule said. “And then some guys had to go both ways today, which is good to show, ‘Hey I am versatile. I can play both sides of the ball.’”
Wide receiver Robby Anderson caught 70 passes and totaled 939 yards receiving and seven receiving touchdowns for the Owls in 2015.
Anderson ran an unofficial 4.38 in the 40-yard dash on Wednesday. While he caught passes and ran routes during position drills, he also worked out as a defensive back.
“A couple teams requested me to come work out at DB because they’ve heard that I’m very athletic,” Anderson said. “I played [defensive back] in 2013 during the spring, so they wanted to see me out there. They wanted to see where they can use me at.”
Other Owls who worked out were offensive linemen Shahbaz Ahmed and Eric Lofton, defensive backs Boye Aromire, Will Hayes and Alex Wells, defensive linemen Nate D. Smith and Hershey Walton, fullback/ linebacker Michael Felton, wide receiver Brandon Shippen, tight end Saledeem Major, kicker/ punter Tyler Mayes and running back Roy Wesley.
“We have all of our young guys trying to make sure they understand is the reason everyone is here is because of the way our seniors played,” Rhule said. “You have to play well to have them come check you out. To have five guys in all-star games, to have three guys at the combine, we should have had more, and have this many people here, I think it speaks volumes to the talent that we have, and it’ll be the same way with our seniors next year.”
Owen McCue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Owen_McCue