Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass holds annual pro day at McGuirk Alumni Stadium

13 Minutemen participate

Caroline O'Connor
UMass fullback, Matt Tuleja, center, catches the pass to him from Stonehill quarterback, Matt Foltz, during a pro day practice event hosted by UMass, Thursday, March 22, 2018 at McGuirk Stadium.

By Thomas Johnston, Assistant Sports Editor

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The Massachusetts football team held its pro day Thursday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium, with 13 Minutemen participating and two former UMass players, John Robinson and Jalen Williams, also working out.

The Minutemen participants were Ali Ali-Musa, Nick Berus, Colbert Calhoun, Da’Sean Downey, Sha-Ki Holines, Roderick Jones Jr., Malik Lee, Andrew Libby, Logan Laurent, Tedrick Lowery, Jesse Monteiro, Jackson Porter and Matt Tuleja.

The New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, Houston Texans, Washington Redskins, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers and the Cleveland Browns all had at least one scout present.

Tight end, UMass’ top prospect, did not participate after announcing last week that he would retire from football due to nagging knee injuries.

With Brenneman out, the scouts turned their attention to Downey. The White Plains, New York native had six sacks in both his junior and senior season, and finished his Minutemen career with 34 tackles for loss.

The biggest concern for Downey was his weight. As an edge defender, Downey played between 220-225 pounds, and while that was enough in college, he knew that he would have to bulk up to get a chance to play in the NFL. Downey decided to train at a resort in Florida for six and a half weeks to prepare for the pro day, where he ate three to four meals a day at the resorts restaurant.

“I was getting a little buzz just off my play and stuff but I was playing around 220-225,” Downey said. “Since the season ended, I’ve got up to 240, just getting used to that and put on good weight and still move the same. That was my biggest goal.”

During the pro day, Downey was able to show scouts his athleticism and strength, participating in athletic testing as well as on field football drills.

“Today went pretty good,” Downey said. “I got to compete and show my talent in front of a whole bunch of teams at the top level. It’s always a good opportunity. I didn’t do exactly what I wanted to do, it’s a little cold out here, but I’m still happy with my numbers and everything like that. I’m looking forward to the near future.

“It felt unrealistic,” Downey continued. “In a way it felt like I just got here and I was sitting in Coach Walker’s room with guys like Kassan Messiah and Trey Seals and just learning from them and coming out and watching their pro day. Now it’s my turn, you just put your best foot forward and give it all you got.”

Downey dreamed of making it to the NFL when he first came to UMass, but realized the dream could come to fruition his sophomore year after sealing a win against Buffalo with an interception. After the game he talked with then senior wide receiver Tajae Sharpe, who ended up being drafted in the fourth round by the Tennessee Titans in 2016, and made the decision that he would do everything he could to make it to the pros.

“We got back out here and I talked to Tajae Sharpe and we had a long talk that night and in my head I made up my mind right then, that’s what I wanted to do,” Downey said. “I knew it was attainable because he was in a good position to do the same thing. That’s what I wanted for myself.”

Downey doesn’t have a favorite NFL team, but loves the way the Broncos and Raiders play their defense, saying he models his game after pass rushers Von Miller and Khalil Mack.

While Downey was able to display his football skills on the field, scouts use these opportunities to interview the players and get to know them personally, and Downey enjoyed being able to show them what type of person he is.

“Coming from a small school, trying to see my family background and everything,” Downey said on what he was asked about. “Just the little details about my life that might not be out there just because I play football.”

The NFL draft will take place from April 26-28, where Downey will hope to have his name called.

Thomas Johnston can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @TJ__Johnston.

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