By NATE GRIFFIN, SportsRadio 610

HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – The first step for a collegiate player who wants to play professional football is to first feel as though he’s good enough to play at the next level. What follows can be a series of different steps. However, one can only imagine that the player might want to go about alerting a team of his desire to play.

Hence, we present NFL Pro Day which is an event staged at colleges and universities which allow NFL scouts to visit their campuses and put players through a battery of physical tests. NFL Pro Day is scheduled for one specific day per campus.

Scouts who visit determine if the player has what it takes to compete for a coveted position in the NFL. That information is relayed back to the perspective teams prior to the NFL Draft.

The NFL Draft is scheduled for April 26th through April 28th. Approximately 16 to 18 scouts were attended. Some of the teams represented were the Houston Texans, Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49er’s, Tampa Bay Bucs, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, and the Buffalo Bills.


Approximately 12 now former Rice Owls participated in the drills. Offensive lineman Davon Allen, center Keyshawn Carrington, quarterback Nick Fanuzzi, OL Jake Hicks, defensive back Chris Jammer, WR Randy Kitchens, punter Kyle Martens, LB Tanner Shuck, NG Michael Smith, RB Tyler Smith, DE Scott Solomon, and CB/S Denzel Wells.

Prospects were asked to run the 40-yard dash for time, the 3-cone drill for balance and quickness, and bag drills for footwork and agility. Players were also asked to participate in the bench press, broad jump, and vertical jump.

Former Houston Oiler running back Alonzo Highsmith was one of several scouts in attendance as players participated in drills. Highsmith who played in the NFL for 6 seasons and turned to boxing once he retired from the NFL, has worked as a NFL scout for the Green Packers the last 14 years. His states are Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Mississippi.

Highsmith says he was not surprised by the level of talent at Rice Pro Day.

“I know what type of athletes they have. They have good competitive players. Every few years, they’re going to have that special kid like a Scott Solomon. But they always have the same type of workman type kids. But, they’re good football players and they teams, some of them.”


Some results were better than others. However most seem to feel that they had good workouts. Former running back Tyler Smith ran a 40-time of 4.41 and was happy with his workout.

“My quickness and my speed really came out real well. So, we were glad with this time.” When asked if any teams showed interest, Smith was positive.

“Got a couple – got a couple of teams looking at me. So, hopefully it’ll come through. You never know – just takes one phone call – may happen.”

Former Rice QB Nick Fanuzzi threw the football and also participated in drills as needed. He says he had a pretty good day.

“I thought I had a good showing today. I talked to a few scouts and had some good talks. They said that they liked what they saw. I threw the ball solid and I feel good about it. They had some nice things to say.”

Fanuzzi said that he was also invited to participate at an invitation only combine later this month in Detroit.

Scott Solomon declined run a 40-yard dash for time. However, he certainly had the attention of the scouts as he participated in other drills.

“I tried to focus on line-backing drills and working my hips and things like that. So, that’s really what I worked on today. There’s always things I can do better. You just got to move on and keep on working and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Other former Owls that were happy with their workouts were DB/S Denzel Wells who turned in a sub 4.5 40 time. Former DT/NT Michael Smith was able to bench press 225 pounds 19 times.

Kyle Martens, who punted for the NFL at the Combine in Indianapolis, also punted for Scouts at the Pro Day. One of the scouts at the camp was really impressed with Martens even more after seeing his name in the stadium. The scout said that someday it’s possible that name could be etched on another type of Hall – sorry – we meant Wall!

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