Former Tigers, NFL hopefuls make their most of Pro Day chance

Freeman impressive in drills, bench press; Brown runs 4.40 40; Hopkins, Goodman improve 40 times; Ford goes deep

Football pro timing day - Jaron Brown

Football pro timing day - Jaron Brown

Surprised, disappointed and still-determined.

That's how both Brandon Ford and Dalton Freeman describe their feelings when they learned they been passed over for invitations to the NFL Combine at Indianapolis.

Both Clemson stars, along with many of their former teammates, grabbed their next best chance and made the most of it on Thursday when they worked out for 46 NFL scouts and coaches in attendance at Clemson's Pro Day.

"It was a good experience - kind of like a big job interview and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Ford following his morning workout at Clemson's indoor practice facility. "When you don't get invited to the Combine, Pro Day's always big.

Brown shows out with top-40 time

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"I felt like I had a pretty good day. I ran fast, I got a quality number on the bench press, I jumped the highest, and I felt like I did well in the position drills. So it was a good day."

"I felt that I deserved to be there," said Freeman, a first-team AFCA All-American and a two-time finalist for the Rimington Award, of his Combine snub. "I had a great career here, so I was disappointed.

"But it's just one of those things. It's a process and I just kept working. I was very happy with my results. I prepared well these past few months and I think I was ready. I've taken the past two months to work on my training, and hopefully I've proved to everybody that I belong in this league."

Freeman posted some eye-catching numbers, including 34 reps in the bench press, and official times of 4.99 in the 40, 7.85 seconds in the L-drill, and 4.65 seconds in the three-cone drill. He had a 32-inch vertical jump.

DeAndre Hopkins, who is being projected by many as a possible first-round pick, improved his 40-yard dash time marginally, from 4.57 at the Combine to 4.55 on Thursday.

Jaron Brown made the most of his opportunity, as well, as he posted an official 40 time of 4.40 seconds and made a string of tough catches, including one spectacular one-hander, during position drills. He also had a personal-best vertical jump of 35.5 inches.

Also working out for the scouts were linebackers Corico Wright and Tig Willard, placekicker Spencer Benton, defensive backs Xavier Brewer, Rashard Hall, Carlton Lewis and Jonathan Meeks, and defensive end Malliciah Goodman.

The 6-4, 270-pound Goodman provided a highlight when he ran an unofficial 40 time of 4.65 seconds.

Ford said part of preparation for Pro Day involved getting up early, stretching, and preparing to perform with little time for warm-up.

Ford: Pro Day once in a lifetime opportunity

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"I tried to prepare the best I could, training, getting up early and preparing for interviews," he said. "It was kind of like getting ready for a 12 o'clock game. When it's time, you have to go out there and perform."

Ford, who last season tied Dwayne Allen's Clemson single-season record for touchdown catches by a tight end, worked out in receiving drills alongside Hopkins and Brown.

Ford believes he showed the scouts what they were hoping to see.

"I felt like I stayed low and ran smooth," Ford said. "I know coming into this, having only been at the position for two years, that I have to work on my on-line blocking. I've never been a mauler or some guy that's just going to pound every play, but I knew what my role is - I can stretch the field, have good hands and can run."

Ford was officially clocked at 4.73 in the 40-yard dash, and during position drills was repeatedly sent deep for passes. He had a 37-inch vertical jump

"I was expecting to see the deep balls and was confortable with it," he said. "They wanted to see me run, and I wanted to show them that I'm not someone who's sluggish and can't move."

For Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, Thursday's event was a chance to show off Clemson's new indoor facility, while connecting with pro scouts and former players.

"It's always great to see the guys come back who've been off training," said Swinney. "I haven't seen a lot of them since our banquet. I'm excited to have them back. It's a big day for them. I'm thankful for this facility and having a first-class place for them to come and perform at hopefully their highest level on a huge day."

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