As one of 15 Utah players trying to improve his NFL draft stock, offensive lineman Nick Ford nimbly went through drills at pro day Thursday morning at the Eccles Field House.
Looking trim, lean and hungry, the easygoing Ford was happy with his performance in what is tantamount to a job interview in front of scouts representing 29 different NFL teams.
“I think it went well. I did what I had to do,” he told reporters at the conclusion of pro day. “I don’t really get too nervous. That was younger me. I’ve been doing this for some years now. The drills that we did, I’ve been doing for a couple of months. I felt very calm and I knew that I had the tools to go out and do what I needed to do. I think I used them effectively.”
Ford, who is projected as a seventh-round pick, hoped that he was able to improve his draft stock.
Certainly, he’s versatile, having played all five positions on the O-line during his time with the Utes. He showed what he could do in college but he knows the importance of maintaining an edge.
“You always have something to prove. The hay’s never in the barn. My biggest thing is being able to move, being able to jump, being able to bend,” he said. “I felt like I did all of those very well. I felt I performed very well. For someone who’s 6-5, 310, it’s not common to be moving like that.”
Since helping lead Utah to its first Pac-12 championship and its first Rose Bowl berth, Ford has dropped to 310 pounds, explaining that he lost 19 pounds of fat and added eight pounds of muscle.
“I don’t have any pain in my back or my ankles. My knees feel great,” he said. “I have a lot more mobility and I’m able to bend a lot more. Definitely losing weight has helped.”
As expected, star linebacker Devin Lloyd attended, but didn’t participate in, pro day. He stood by on the sidelines, watching his former teammates.
As a projected first-round pick, the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and consensus All-American participated in the NFL scouting combine in February and he didn’t need to do any drills.
Besides, he said he’s dealing with “some lower extremity tightness” that’s not worth aggravating.
“I didn’t want to go out and risk anything. So I just made the smart decision and decided not to do anything,” Lloyd said. “For what I did in-season and at the combine too, that was enough to do what I want to do in the draft.”
Another Ute linebacker, Nephi Sewell, also participated in the combine but he decided to participate in many of the drills Thursday.
During most of the season, Sewell said he played with a high ankle sprain.
“It helped the scouts see how I move. Throughout the season I was battling an injury,” he said. “I’m fully healthy now so it feels good to run around and do what I do best.”
Defensive lineman Mika Tafua, meanwhile, recently underwent surgery on a sports hernia that he played with during the last three games of the season, including the Rose Bowl.
“I didn’t start running until two or three weeks ago. I was trying to get healed and ready for today so I could do everything,” he said. “That was the most important thing for me today, was to participate in everything that I can. I felt like I did OK. I could always do better. I just wish I had the opportunity to really train for that whole time rather than go through the recovery and rehab process.”
Tafua understands that drills only provide a glimpse at pro potential.
“Shoot, we’re here to play football. These are drills. These are things for the scouts to see how athletic we are and stuff,” he said. “But at the end of the day, we’re here to play football. That’s the way I looked at it. I did my best today.”
Running back TJ Pledger was a late addition to the Senior Bowl in early February. That experience helped his draft stock, he said.
“I was able to sit down with 20-plus teams and showcase my talents in front of them. I feel like that was huge going forward in this process,” he said. “I was blessed with the opportunity to go to the Senior Bowl and try to take advantage of it as much as I could.”
Pledger believes he enhanced his position even more at pro day.
“I definitely felt like I did. I was able to show my speed,” he said. “I answered the questions there, and my agility, my route-running and my catching out of the backfield. And my explosiveness. I felt like I put together a show.”
Asked how fast he ran the 40-yard dash, Pledger wasn’t sure, but, he added, “I know it was somethin’ fast.”
Britain Covey, Utah’s all-time punt return leader, also participated in pro day drills and he was pleased with how he performed in the 40-yard dash.
“I had one scout tell me he clocked me at a 4.43,” he said. “That’s about what I was aiming for, the low 4.4s.”
Though undersized at 5-foot-8, Covey is always eager to surprise people, including NFL scouts.
On Thursday, Covey said he felt good about what he showed them.
“I hope they saw what they were looking for. I’m excited. I try to think of myself as pretty self-aware of what my role is. As a return man, that’s the main thing I’ll go to,” he said. “I’m really excited to surprise some people at the slot (receiver position). I even felt like my routes today surprised some people by how crisp they are and how natural I feel at receiver. I would love to go in as a return man and then be one of the top four receivers on a team.”
Now, all these former Utes will be waiting for the NFL draft, which will take place April 28-30 in Las Vegas.