The scout clicked his stopwatch, looked 40 yards down the field to where Donald Russell was standing, and said to himself, “This is an opportunity.”
Russell didn’t disappoint.
Russell clocked times of 4.54 seconds and 4.58 seconds in the 40-yard dash at Georgia State’s Pro Day on Thursday at the team’s practice facility. Russell was one of seven Panthers who worked out for scouts from 11 NFL teams. Also in attendance were former Panthers Christo Bilukidi, who was drafted by Raiders in the sixth round last year, and Jake Muasau, who signed with Giants last year as an undrafted free agent.
Russell, a running back who rushed for 747 yards last season, was one of three who impressed at least another scout, who said that Russell, tight end Emmanuel Ogbuehi and running back Malcolm Smith helped themselves with their performances.
“The coaches loved me,” said Russell, who looked completely recovered from the sprained MCL he sustained in his left knee last season. “I felt great. The hard work paid off.”
Russell’s best time would have tied for 10th-fastest at last month’s NFL combine in Indianapolis (Thursday’s times were hand-clocked, which aren’t as accurate as the timing devices used at the combine). Russell, who measured 5-foot-10, 214 pounds, also bench-pressed 225 pounds 23 times. Those reps would have also tied for 10th-best at the combine.
Smith, who rarely played at Georgia State, may have impressed the most. Smith, who had seven carries for 13 yards last year, ran times of 4.45, which would have been the fastest for running backs at the combine, and 4.55 in the 40. He also posted 24 reps on the bench press, which would have tied for second among running backs at the combine. He said he thinks he could have done more reps if he hadn’t hit one of the support structures near the bench with the bar. He said he plans to attend another Pro Day.
“I think I did decently,” he said. “I felt pretty fast. I think I could be faster.”
Ogbuehi, who caught 25 passes for 282 yards last year, measured 6-1, 244 pounds. He bench-pressed the required 225 pounds 31 times, which would have tied for the best among the tight ends at the combine. He ran the 40 in 4.68 and 4.69 seconds. His best time would have tied for fifth at the combine. He felt like he impressed the most in those two drills. The players were also measured in the vertical jump, the broad jump, the 10-yard shuttle and the pro shuttle.
“I felt like I did OK,” Ogbuehi said. “That’s me being my worst critic. I felt like I did pretty good.”
Russell and Ogbuehi were asked by a few of the scouts to stay after and catch passes. Russell, who transferred from Kentucky to Georgia State for his last two seasons, caught 16 passes for 163 yards last season. He caught most everything thrown to him by quarterbacks coach Luke Huard.
Ogbuehi also looked sharp in the drills, other than when the scouts chided him to stay flat in the route he was being asked to run.
This was Russell’s third time working in front of NFL scouts, and he has a workout scheduled with the Dolphins, one of the teams in attendance Thursday, on April 3.
“They told me they loved seeing me in the competitions, loved seeing me in the different places,” Russell said of the scouts, who ask that their names not be used. “I hope I get drafted, but drafted, free agent, whatever, I’m there.”
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