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NFL Pro Day a beginning for ex-Hoosiers (with video)

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For more on college sports, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at www.twitter.com/pdiprimio

Latimer fastest, Houston and Hughes strongest

Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 12:01 am

BLOOMINGTON -- They came to see, these serious men with digital stop watches and sleek wind breakers signifying their NFL teams. There were Eagles and Falcons and Patriots and more, 30 scouts representing 26 teams seeking difference-making talent.

They came to show, these serious NFL hopefuls, many without shirts and, it seemed, without body fat. They ran and jumped and lifted and caught passes while striving to make lasting impressions.

On Wednesday they gathered at Indiana's Mellencamp Pavilion to see and prove who was worthy of NFL Draft consideration.

Here was Hoosiers receiver Cody Latimer, who had given up his senior season after a big-time junior performance (72 catches, 1,096 yards, nine touchdowns), not quite healed from foot surgery, but determined to show he had NFL-caliber speed.

There was Mitch Ewald, the most accurate kicker in IU history, set to show he had the consistent leg strength to match his accuracy.

Here was running back Stephen Houston, looking explosive and fit, trying to show he had the necessary speed, power and receiving skills.

There were Hoosier tight end Ted Bolser and receiver Kofi Hughes, both trying to prove the lie to too-slow perceptions. There, also, was safety Greg Heban hoping that some NFL team -- any team -- would call.

Latimer was the fastest of them all Wednesday with a 4.38-second 40-yard dash time. It came on his second attempt and was vindication after a poor first-attempt start. He also posted a 39-inch vertical jump. He didn't do anything else Wednesday, although his 23 bench-press reps at 225 pounds in last month's NFL Combine was the best of any receiver there.

“That helped me a lot,” he said. “It showed my physicality and strength.”

Latimer has been training in Florida. He's heard from a number of teams, so many, “that I can't remember them all.” The Philadelphia Eagles, Carolina Panthers, New York Giants, Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders were among those interested.

“You hear all kind of things,” he said. “It all comes down to what happens. I have a lot of visits in April. Hopefully they go well.

“I'm willing to block. They love that I played special teams at Indiana. It shows I can throw my body around, make tackles, do what it takes to win.”

Ewald didn't do any of the sprints or agility drills, but he kicked field goals and kickoffs.

“I wanted to have fun and relax,” he said. “A lot of guys put too much pressure on themselves and don't enjoy it. I got a lot of texts from buddies in the league now who said have fun. I wanted to get height and distance on the ball. I think I accomplished that.

“It's a long waiting game. I've got a couple of workouts lined up. Hopefully I get some more. After that it's another waiting game, wait until the draft, probably wait after the draft, and go from there.”

Houston showed the best combination of speed and power with a 4.46 time in the 40 after bench-pressing 225 pounds 24 times, which tied for best of the day with Hughes. He had the best vertical jump at 40 inches.

Hughes and Bolser showed they weren't slow. Hughes ran the 40 in 4.53. Bolser was at 4.75.

“For me it was just speed,” Hughes said. “Everyone thinks I'm slow. That's what I've heard the last few months. I've been working on my speed. Route running and speed have been my main focus.

“I've talked to a handful of teams. They were waiting to see what (Pro Day) numbers I put up.”

Added Bolser: “I think I did what I was not expected to do. People expected me to run slower than I did. I had some pretty good times. We did that as whole. We proved a lot of people wrong.

“(As for where I'll be drafted), I don't know. I've heard all different rounds of where I'm projected. Whatever happens will happen.”

As for Heban, he ran a 4.56 in the 40 and had the day's fastest time in the 20-yard shuttle drill at 4.05 seconds.

“My main thing was trying to turn some heads,” he said. “Being underrated, and it's no lie to say our defense hasn't been the greatest the past couple of years, not much attention is drawn to players on defense. I haven't heard from any teams yet. I'm hoping teams talk to me.”

Heban will participate in an Indianapolis Combine this weekend, and “I'll get more exposure. Hopefully after that teams will start contacting me.”

Also participating was Lawrence Barnett, a former Bishop Luers standout who played three years for IU but didn't play last season. He had a 4.63 40-yard dash time and posted 21 bench-press reps.

Perhaps Latimer summed up the experience best:

“There are no days off. This is only a beginning, a steppingstone. You have to keep going.”