Northern Illinois University All-Americans Jordan Lynch and Jimmie Ward, along with five of their 2013 senior teammates, took center stage Friday at the Kenneth and Ellen Chessick Practice Center at NIU’s Annual Pro Day.
National Football League personnel from 30 different teams, the Huskie coaching staff, friends, family, teammates, members of the media and special guests watched as Lynch, Ward, defensive backs Sean Evans and Jhony Faustin and defensive linemen George Rainey, Anthony Wells and Joe Windsor went through a series of timing tests and drills. In all, 38 representatives from NFL teams were in attendance.
Ward, the safety who made 320 tackles, defended 37 passes and intercepted 11 during a stellar Huskie career en route to first team All-America honors from USA Today and SI.com, was the object of much attention. He made an impression during Senior Bowl Week in his hometown of Mobile, Ala., and followed that with an impressive performance Friday. Ward measured in at 5-10 ½ inches and 197 pounds, ran the 40 yard dash in 4.45 seconds, had a 38-inch vertical jump and a broad jump of 10 ½ feet.
After spending approximately 90 minutes in interviews with multiple teams following his workout, Ward met the media where he pronounced himself “happy” with his times and his overall performance on the day.
Lynch, one of the most productive players ever in college football who set five NCAA records en route to a third-place finish in Heisman Trophy voting in 2013, ran the 40 in 4.68 seconds Friday but was happier about the way he had thrown the football in passing drills. Lynch, who also took part in several drills with the defensive backs Friday at the request of the scouts, re-iterated that he is a quarterback first but will do “whatever it takes” to make an NFL team.
Evans, a cornerback out of Ft. Walton Beach, Fla. who missed seven games due to injury as a senior, put up some of the most impressive numbers among the rest of the Huskies. He ran the 40 in 4.55 seconds, posted the fastest time in the three-cone drill at 6.88, had a vertical jump of 35 inches and went 10.3 in the broad jump. Windsor posted a vertical jump of 37 inches and completed the three-cone drill in 7.18.
Defensive tackle Ken Bishop, who only completed the bench press portion of the testing, lifted 225 pounds 29 times to lead everyone, followed by Wells’ 25 and Windsor’s 19 reps. Rainey ran the top time among the defensive linemen with a 4.64 40 and added a 32-inch vertical jump and a broad jump of over 10 feet.
For the first time, NIU was able to hold its entire Pro Day in the new Kenneth and Ellen Chessick Practice Center. The 80,600 square-foot facility was opened in October 2013 and provided participants with a full practice field, wind and weather-protected area and fresh FieldTurf surface.
Over the last four seasons, the NIU football program has enjoyed a run of success rivaled by few teams in the nation.
Since the beginning of the 2010 season, only one Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) program has won more games than NIU’s 46. The Huskies have played in each of the last four Mid-American Conference Championship games as MAC West Division Champions, claimed wins over the likes of Iowa, Purdue and Kansas and are 31-1 in regular season games versus MAC opponents over the last four seasons. The Huskies have played in six straight bowl games, tied for the longest streak in league history. NIU players who have made their way onto NFL rosters in recent years include Chandler Harnish, Nathan Palmer, Chad Spann, Alan Baxter and Rashaan Melvin.
NIU, which returns 46 letterwinners and 14 starters in 2014, opens spring practices at 7:05 a.m. Tuesday, March 18, with the Huskie Bowl Spring Game set for 3 p.m. Saturday, April 19, at Huskie Stadium. A complete schedule for spring practices and details on the Huskie Bowl will be available in the coming weeks on www.niuhuskies.com.