Summers, Joseph among top performers at UConn's pro day
Storrs — The countless hours of grueling workouts, some here in Connecticut and others in California or Florida, the years of dreaming of playing professional football came down to a couple of pressure-packed hours working out for scouts and coaches from 18 NFL and two CFL teams inside the Shenkman Training Center on Wednesday morning.
When the final drill was completed, tight end Tommy Myers was chatting it up with a couple of scouts from the New York Giants with other meetings between NFL reps and pro football hopefuls taking place at the facility that had become the former Huskies' home away from home.
Defensive back Jamar Summers and linebacker Junior Joseph certainly opened some eyes, top CFL Draft prospect Trey Rutherford drew scouts from the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Calgary Stampeders. UConn's top pro prospect is considered to be defensive lineman Foley Fatukasi but after a strong showing at the NFL scouting combine, he only took part in positional drills as he looks to continue to climb draft boards.
"I think we had a great day, helped each out and pushed each other," said running back Arkeel Newsome, a former Ansonia star. "I feel like I went out there and gave it my all."
Summers had a vertical jump of 37 1/2 inches and a 10-5 broad jump. More than 50 defensive backs took part in both events at the NFL scouting combine and only seven had numbers matching or topping what Summers did in both events on Wednesday, including potential top 10 picks Denzel Ward of Ohio State and Florida State's Derwin James.
"It has been a long time coming, it has been three months (working out in San Diego), it felt like six," Summers said. "You always expect you can go as high as you can but for the most part, I will take it."
Six UConn defensive backs have been taken in the NFL draft since 2008 including Summers' former teammates Byron Jones going in the first round in 2015 and Obi Melifonwu in the second round in 2017. When Summers had eight interceptions as a sophomore, he seemed likely to be the next DB from the Huskies to hear his name called during the three-day draft. Inconsistent play in his final two seasons makes it less certain that he will be drafted .
"With this process you can't expect anything except what you put forth, everything else is in the teams' hands," Summers said.
Summers can lean not only on Melifonwu, Jones and Andrew Adams, who made the New York Giants as an undrafted free agent, but his brother Alvin Bowen, who was a fifth round pick by Buffalo who got into camp with five NFL and two CFL teams.
So what is Bowen telling Summers about the process?
"Stay level headed, at the end of the day everything is not going to go your way, that is life and that is the great thing about football, it teaches you life lessons," Summers said.
Joseph had a 35-inch vertical jump and a mark of 9-11 in the broad jump. UConn's leading tackler during the 2017 season torn his left labrum in the Huskies' season opener, keeping him from lifting weights for about two months. While he had 30 reps in the bench press before his injury, he was content with doing 24 at pro day so scouts knew his shoulder was 100 percent healthy. Joseph is hoping he did enough to get into an NFL training camp.
"I will be happy to get drafted but for me, I am just looking for an opportunity as an undrafted free agent but if I do get drafted, that is awesome," Joseph said.
UConn's had a pretty good run of defensive players making it to the next level but there are some intriguing offensive prospects in this year's class who were somewhat underutilized at times during their time at UConn.
Myers and fellow tight end Alec Bloom as well as Newsome are hoping for a chance to continue their football careers.
"Scouts that talked to me told me I performed well so that is good," Myers said. "It brings you back through the five years that I spent here. It is good to finally close this chapter and try to start a new one so that is what you want to do. That is what all about, just trying to strive to be the best and get to the next level."
Newsome, the all-time leading rusher in Connecticut high school football history, lost carries to some younger teammates as a senior but he did have 106 career receptions and had 99 yards on four kickoff returns in the Tropical Bowl on Jan. 14 in Daytona Beach, Fla. His versatility and speed could draw interest from the pro scouts.
"The kick returns helped me a lot and I didn't get too many reps in my (final) season so I think I showed a little something," said Newsome, who was UConn's primary kickoff returner in his first three seasons. "There are doubters but I try to do everything the best that I can just to prove people wrong."
Defensive ends Cole Ormsby (33 reps at 225 pounds in the bench press), Luke Carrezola and Cam Stapleton, linebackers Vontae Diggs and E.J. Levenberry and defensive back Tre Bell also took part in Wednesday's pro day.
The NFL Draft is April 26-28 in Arlington, Texas. The CFL Draft is on May 3 with Rutherford the No. 2 rated player in the CFL Scouting Bureau rankings.
"It is a long process," Rutherford said. "It is definitely exciting. I'm trying to manage graduating, I am still managing a full course load so I'm trying to get my balance right now, I will be excited to see what is next."