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Utah football: Utes put on a show for scouts during 'Pro Day'

SALT LAKE CITY — Two-time Ray Guy Award winner Tom Hackett capped off Utah’s annual “Pro Day” by punting on the practice field.

“It was good,” Hackett said. “It took me a while to get out, but once I got out I felt like I hit the ball pretty sweet — in the sweet part of the football — so, all I can do really.”

Hackett was among 19 former Utes being put through physical tests and skills assessments by scouts from 28 NFL and two CFL teams Thursday morning at the football complex.

The All-American punter noted that the NFL Scouting Combine in February was more grueling than the gathering up on the hill.

“You sleep in your own bed the night before, you get up and have six shots of coffee, and away we go,” Hackett said. “You kind of choose what you eat for breakie and you’re in your happy place. I’ve punted on this field obviously thousands of times.”

Hackett added that he just came out and tried to do what he does best.

Such is the case when pursuing a professional football career.

Las Vegas Bowl MVP Tevin Carter said that he had a good day. He upped his time in the 40 to 4.52 and had personal bests in the broad jump (10 feet, 5 inches) and vertical leap (34 inches).

Carter, who weighed in at 221, said he’s willing to play safety, linebacker, wherever they want him at the next level.

Former quarterback Kendal Thompson worked out as a receiver and punt returner.

“It’s fun. It’s been a new challenge for me,” said Thompson, who switched positions before Utah’s 35-28 win over BYU in the Vegas Bowl — catching one pass for eight yards. “A lot of teams like my upside and so I’m just trying to do as much as I can and kind of be as versatile as I can.”

Quarterback Travis Wilson was determined to keep the ball up a little bit higher and work on his fundamentals throughout the training process. Former Utah tight end Jake Murphy, an NFL free agent, assisted Wilson by running routes for the scouts.

“He made some great catches,” Wilson said. “I’m really happy he got to play and run around out here as well.”

A lot of players left the field pleased with their performances.

Linebacker Jared Norris noted his improvement in everything that he did at the combine.

“It was a good day for me. I’m happy with the day,” he said. “Obviously, I’m never satisfied.”

Fellow linebacker Gionni Paul, who ran a sluggish 5.05 in the 40 at the combine — improved his time to a 4.8, a stepping stone he said in continual improvement. However, he acknowledged his value isn’t in the times and measurements.

“My thing is I’m a very productive player. I’m very instinctive,” Paul said. “I love the game and I never cheat the game. I’m going to work hard towards the things I need to improve on.”

Running back Devontae Booker, who is recovering from a late-season knee injury, attended “Pro Day” but didn’t not participate in the drills. He’ll work out for NFL scouts April 12 at his alma mater, Grant High School, in Sacramento.

Booker estimated that he’s about 80-85 percent healthy right now. The extra time allows him to get through his rehab and be ready when NFL camps open. The reason he was up on the hill, he explained, was to be there for his former teammates.

“I already knew I wasn’t doing anything,” Booker said. “So I just wanted to still come out and support them and know I have their back just like they had mine when I was here playing.”

EXTRA POINTS: Wide receiver Kenneth Scott had a 38-inch vertical . . . NFL veteran and Utah alum Stevenson Sylvester participated in some drills to show scouts that his knee is healthy . . . Jason Fanaika and Jason Whittingham had solid overall performances . . . Kaelin Clay and Robert Johnson were among the alums in attendance.


Twitter: @DirkFacer