Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass Pro Day offers players a chance to be noticed

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(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

The scouts watched from afar, some standing grouped together while others worked individually. With a stopwatch and clipboard in hand, their eyes followed prospects who shuffled through an assortment of drills.

With each stopwatch click, jotted note and mental reminder, these professional scouts played a significant role in the football future of nearly every player who participated in the Massachusetts Football Pro Day, which was held Monday at a chilly McGuirk Stadium.

For former UMass tight end Jean Sifrin, who also participated in the NFL Draft Combine in February and was the focus of attention Monday, it was yet another chance to improve his draft stock before he returns home to Miami, where he’ll continue to workout.

For others, like former Minutemen wide receiver Alex Kenney, it was simply a chance – maybe even the last chance – to impress.

Kenney played for UMass last season as a graduate student and put his academic career on hold following the season to pursue a professional career. Monday, he worked out in front of a handful of NFL teams, including Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie.

“It’s one of those things where I don’t want to look back on it and say, ‘I wish I would’ve done this or that,’ because school is always going to be there and I have my undergraduate degree,” he said. “So however this goes, I’ll be able to live with myself that I put my best foot forward.”

Kenney moved to Indianapolis in January to train, spending nearly six weeks working with a strength and speed specialist at St. Vincent Sports Performance along with 12 other college prospects.

Professional scouts often attended the workouts and it offered Kenney an opportunity to assess his future and learn how NFL teams would evaluate him.

“We were lucky enough to interact with a former (general manager) who came and watched us work out,” Kenney said. “He was able to evaluate us and tell us what he thought our draft stock and ability to become a free agent was.”

Kenney transferred to UMass from Penn State and caught nine passes for 190 yards in 12 games, including an 80-yard touchdown reception. While his statistics don’t appear to translate to a professional career, he possesses one attribute coveted by the NFL: speed.

“I’ve heard some positive things,” said Kenney, who added teams have reached out to him but declined to offer specifics. “I’ve heard that my speed and my size could be a benefit to some teams.”

A former sprinter, Kenney said he can run a 40-yard dash between 4.2 and 4.3 seconds. The top 40-yard-dash time at the 2015 NFL combine was 4.28 seconds. Kenney said Monday that because of the colder conditions, he was pleased with any time under 4.5 seconds.

“I’ve been told that speed is the one thing that can’t be taught, it’s given to you,” he said. “I’ve been trying to showcase that to as many people as possible and hopefully someone will recognize that and give me an opportunity.”

Monday’s pro day was simply that – an opportunity.

There was former Minutemen running back John Griffin, whose third stint in the NFL was cut short two years ago by a broken leg. Anthony Dima, a former UMass offensive linemen who briefly signed with both the Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans last year, also participated. So too did local athletes from at least nine other schools.

“All you need is a shot,” said former Minutemen linebacker Stanley Andre, who also participated Monday and used current New York Giants and former UMass receiver Victor Cruz as an example of an unheralded player getting a chance. Cruz initially impressed scouts, who were there to watch former UMass offensive lineman Vladimir Ducasse, at UMass’ pro day.

Andre has trained at Athletic Evolution in Woburn since the end of the season and also hired an agent to aid in the process. Like many, he just wants a chance.

“You’re just training all the time,” he said. “Sometimes you’re frustrated, sometimes you’re not. You’re just going off your times and hoping you run your best times on a day where it actually counts. You just have to keep grinding and keep pushing.

“Just hope and pray.”

Mark Chiarelli can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli.

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