Griz host Pro Day as 2017 gridders take field for spring drills
After a winter covered in snow and ice, Washington-Grizzly Stadium was a hive of activity on Monday as former Griz football greats returned home for Pro Day to show their stuff for NFL scouts, and the 2017 Griz took the field for the first practice of spring ball.
Pro Day activities got underway deep inside the Adams Center at 10 a.m. with weights and measurements before nine former Griz and one visiting player from Carroll College were put through their paces in jump tests and bench press.
Pro Day then moved to the turf inside the stadium where scouts timed and tested the former players, who have been working for this day at various training centers around the country in sprints, agility drills, and game-like scenarios.
Scouts from the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs, and Green Bay Packers were on hand to at the 2017 Montana Pro Day.
Grizzlies hoping to move to the next level included running backs Joey Counts and John Nguyen, defensive ends Ryan Johnson and Caleb Kidder, defensive backs JR Nelson, TJ Reynard and Yamen Sanders, along with offensive lineman Jackson Thiebes. Carroll College linebacker Jake Konen – a product of Kalispell's Glacier High School – also joined the Griz for Pro Day.
"All you can do is your best, and I felt like everyone looked really good out here, so hopefully we'll get some opportunities," said Ryan Johnson, who has been training in Missoula while completing his degree.
"Looking at the numbers inside, I PR'd in almost everything I did, and like I said, that's all you can ask for. So, it's just, be your best self and hopefully someone comes calling."
One of the top performers for NFL scouts was defensive end Caleb Kidder, who put up an impressive 30 reps on the 225-pound bench press and ran a 4.72 40-yard dash.
Kidder, who has been training every day in Seattle for the past two months, and checked in at a hair under 270 pounds, came away pleased with his performance.
"It was an awesome feeling to get out of the way. I put up some good numbers I'm happy with, and we'll just see what happens now," said Kidder.
His next step? "Graduate and hopefully get a phone call from a team," he added.
Other notable performances came from JR Nelson, who ran the three-cone drill in seven seconds flat and posted the fastest 40 time at 4.47 seconds, and John Nguyen who put up 24 reps on the bench press, despite hitting the scales at 186 pounds.
Later that afternoon, the Griz took the field for the first time as a team in 2017 for a helmets-only practice, installing the offensive and defensive playbooks in a session that lasted a little over two hours.
After more than a month of winter conditioning, the Griz shook off the rust with special teams work, individual work, a seven-on-seven period and two team run periods.
"It's awesome," said Montana head coach of his team's first day out.
"The kids had an awesome offseason as far as the weight room and morning conditioning, and we just couldn't wait to take that to the football field. Everything has been really good up to this point, now you just have to come out and play the game, and play the game the way we've been working on in the weight room and concentrating on in morning conditioning. That's the biggest thing.
"Our effort is always there; now we have to put the mental part with it. We had a really nice practice today," Stitt added.
The Grizzlies will place emphasis on fine tuning the details over the spring period, which will consist of one more helmets only practice before spring break, and resumes with full-contact practice as soon as players return to campus a week later.
"We're going to try to get a lot of guys a lot of reps, and get them into some live situations when we get back from spring break and see how they handle it when the bullets are flying," said Stitt.
Montana will return to the practice field on Wednesday, March 15, for the second helmet-only practice. Full pads practices start on Monday, March 27 and conclude with the annual spring game on April 22.