It has been 122 days since the Youngstown State University football team performed at Stambaugh Stadium in the season finale against South Dakota State University.
For Kurt Hess, Chris Elkins, Nick Liste, Dale Peterman, Kyle Bryant and Carson Sharbaugh, it was their last time playing at the collegiate level together. But for more than two hours on Wednesday at the Watson and Tressel Training Site, the group formed one final time during YSU’s Pro Day.
“It means everything,” Peterman said to media at the event. “I’ve got a lot of guys who I finished my senior year with, and it felt good that these guys were out here. It just felt good to come out here and perform with my friends and in front of scouts.”
Whether it was fighting for a playoff spot on a snowy field or running drills in front of NFL scouts under a roof, nothing has changed.
“I think that being brothers and being really good teammates helps us to just push each other to keep grinding,” Hess said. “Some days we don’t want to wake up, but when we see the other guys wake up, it’s a lot easier.”
Scouts from the Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, San Diego Chargers and San Francisco 49ers were in attendance for the event. It didn’t matter to the athletes that the event began around 8 a.m.
“I woke up at 6 a.m., and I was just really ready to get started. It didn’t really make a difference that much,” Elkins said to members of the press.
Elkins seemed to catch the eyes of everyone. The second-team All-American center performed well with 25 reps on the bench press, a 29-inch vertical leap and a best of eight feet, nine inches in the broad jump.
“This is a great day for him,” Hess said. “He’s just a guy who has good numbers, and he’s an athlete, man. If he was 235 or 245 pounds, he would be the best linebacker hands down. And he’s put on healthy weight, which is good.”
Probably the second-most intriguing athlete was Liste. The first-team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference punter was measured at 174 pounds with a vertical of 31 inches and a broad jump of nine feet, four inches. After the WATTS, Liste concluded his session kicking and punting at Stambaugh Stadium.
The hardest part for Liste is trying to make an NFL roster that usually contains roughly one or two punters — the same goes for kickers. Liste understands the slim opportunity and will continue striving for that chance, even if it isn’t this upcoming season.
“For kickers and punters, that’s really the case,” Liste said to the media. “You see Phil Dawson out there, and he’s been there for a while. Sometimes it takes a couple of years to get in.”
When it was all said and done, everybody felt they performed well with improvements lingering in their minds. For some, it was a more relaxing feeling than anything else.
“I was looking forward to getting this done because I was training for Pro Day,” Bryant said in a press interview. “Now there’s more weight off of my shoulders, and I can train for football, what I’m actually trying to do in life. I’ve been playing it all my life. I haven’t been running 40s all of my life.”
With the conclusion of Pro Day, everybody working inside the WATTS has a lot of work ahead of them, whether it’s just for one day or multiple months. The scouts begin analyzing their possible futures in the former Penguins. Numerous stories will be written by Thursday, including this one. Videos will be edited and posted on YouTube.
For the athletes, their work is done. All they can do is wait and hope.
“We’re not at Alabama. We’re not at Florida. We’re not at Ohio State [University]. Not everybody knows us right away,” Hess said. “I’m just hoping that somebody wrote my name down today and will give me a call some time. Give me a chance.”