With representatives from all 32 NFL teams on hand, former University of Akron wide receiver Mykel Traylor-Bennett set up to run the 40-yard dash Friday morning at the school’s Pro Timing Day at Stile Athletics Field House.
He stepped in to prepare. False start.
He walked away from the starting point. After settling himself again, he took off and ran a sub-4.5. That’s not light speed, but given the road he’s traveled, Traylor-Bennett expressed his satisfaction.
“It’s faster than I thought,” he said of his 4.45 time. “That’s a very successful run for a guy of my size and height.”
Like many who play Division I college football, Traylor-Bennett arrived at UA with dreams of making his mark and translating that success to the pros. Injuries, including an anterior cruciate tear, and position changes probably put a damper on the possibilities, but they did not end his dream.
“It comes with the game, you know,” he said of the bumps in the road. “If you don’t learn from it as a lesson and not a loss, you won’t be successful in this game.”
With his 6-foot-3, 230-pound frame, Traylor-Bennett possesses the type of body NFL offensive coordinators crave. He was one of 24 players — 16 of them former Zips — who performed in front of NFL talent evaluators with the hope of grabbing someone's attention.
Attention isn’t something former UA defensive end Jamal Davis II lacks. He was the only Zips player to secure an invitation to the NFL combine last month in Indianapolis, and he made the most of his opportunity by opening some eyes with his times in the 40.
At 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, Davis could be considered a tweener, and a spot as an outside linebacker or designated edge rusher may be in the offing for him.
“It’s over 20, from before the combine to especially after the combine,” Davis said when asked how many NFL teams have contacted him. “It’s just been going crazy. I’m just happy I put on a performance at the combine and today [when he did linebacker drills] to show them I could do both.”
Davis' draft stock is all over the map, but he said he recently was told he won't last beyond the third round.
Although he was able to flash his potential at the combine, Davis said he was disappointed that other UA teammates didn’t get a chance to join him. The biggest snub was linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III, probably the most consistent UA defender over the past four seasons.
Gilbert (6-1, 230), who has heard from a number of NFL teams, certainly left an impression Friday by running a sub-4.5 40 and doing 20 repetitions in the bench press at 225 pounds.
“Everything I wanted to do, I think I accomplished today,” Gilbert said. “I’m just blessed and thankful and I can’t thank God enough for this opportunity.”
Defensive back Kyron Brown (6-1, 195) is another UA player who didn’t receive a combine invitation, and he said it served as a bit of a motivation after the initial disappointment. He said he has heard from at least four NFL teams.
“At then end of the day, all you need is an opportunity,” Brown said. “A lot of those guys who went to the combine over the years, not all of them got drafted.”
Former UA wide receiver Kwadarrius Smith ran a sub-4.4 40 on Friday. Speed isn’t taught and the NFL loves it. Smith (5-9, 170) is bigger than former UA wideout JoJo Natson, who played with the Los Angeles Rams last year and took a trip to the Super Bowl, and he’s just as fast. It would surprise no one if he got a shot at the next level.
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ByGeorgeThomas.