ABILENE, Texas - After four years of scoring touchdowns, racking up yards, winning games and thrilling ACU football fans, a handful of NFL scouts wanted to see what some of the best skill-position players in Wildcat football history could do Friday against the clock at the team's annual Pro Day.
So wide receiver Taylor Gabriel and running back Charcandrick West went out and wowed the scouts just as they wowed fans and opponents alike the previous four seasons. And Darrell Cantu-Harkless was his usual quiet, understated self in his performance at the Wally Bullington Practice Facility.
What everyone who showed up to see on a blustery West Texas morning was Gabriel and West run the 40-yard dash. And they didn't disappoint.
After clocking a 4.48 (Gabriel) and a 4.47 (West) into a strong south wind (approximately 20-25 mph), the scouts from 11 teams assembled asked those two and the others on hand for the tryout to run with the wind. Harkless ran first and went from a 4.72 into the wind to a 4.53 with the wind. After a few others ran, Gabriel settled into his stance and blew down the field to record an unofficial time of 4.27 seconds, collapsing on the grass at the end of the run and almost tumbling into a blocking sled.
A few moments later, West lined up for his run, and he, too, turned in an unofficial 4.27 with the wind, times that left the scouts and those assembled checking the stopwatches of others to make sure they all had close to the same time.
"They both just ran themselves into position to be drafted," said agent Scott Casterline, who represents both Gabriel and West, along with former Wildcat running back Bernard Scott. "When you get into those late rounds, those measurables really count. And there aren't too many kids across the country who are going to run 4.27."
Both West and Gabriel impressed throughout the day as West hoisted the bar 15 times in the 225-pound bench press and also turned in a standing broad jump mark of 10 feet, 10 inches and a vertical leap of 41 inches. Gabriel, meanwhile, did 18 repetitions, posted a 10-8 mark in the broad jump and a 40-inch vertical.
"I feel like I did pretty well (Friday)," Gabriel said. "There were a few things I felt like I could have done better, but with all of the preparation I've done at the Michael Johnson Performance Center (in McKinney), I think overall it went well."
Harkless, meanwhile, turned a few heads, and will have a chance to turn even more next week when he goes to Dallas to try out for the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League. ACU currently has a handful of former players in the CFL, most notably former quarterback Mitchell Gale with the Toronto Argonauts.
"The NFL is a dream, and all you can ask for is a chance," Cantu-Harkless said of his performance on Friday. "If the NFL or CFL don't work out for whatever reason, I'll be happy with the career I had at ACU and move on with my life. I'm married now and have a great wife who takes care of me and we're looking forward to our life together."
PRO DAY NOTES
Former Wildcat offensive linemen Will Latu, Josh Perez and Blake Spears went through the Pro Day workout, as did former defensive lineman Nick Finney, former linebacker Jesse Harper and former defensive backs Caleb Withrow and Steven Ford. … Teams represented at the Pro Day were the Browns, Chargers, Chiefs, Colts, Cowboys, Eagles, Falcons, Panthers, Raiders, Rams, and Texans. … Spears ran the 40 in 5.59 (into the wind) and 5.22 (with the wind), while Latu ran 5.4 (into the wind) and 5.1 (with the wind). … Perez hoisted the 225-pound weight bar 40 times for the top mark of the day. … Former ACU placekicker Morgan Lineberry was also on hand for the tryout as he tries to catch on with another team this spring. … Lineberry signed a free agent contract with Carolina last spring, but was released by the team on Aug. 24. … Former Angelo State quarterback Josh Neiswander – who played the last two seasons in Canada with the Montreal Alouettes – was on hand Friday to throw to running backs and receivers. … Neiswander threw for 1,311 yards and nine touchdowns last season for the Alouettes, but is now a free agent and is exploring the NFL. … Casterline also represents Neiswander and said a couple of NFL teams have expressed interest with the Rams' all-time leading passer. … One of those could be the Chicago Bears, who are now coached by Marc Trestman, who was the Montreal head coach from 2008-12 and coached Neiswander in his rookie season. … Casterline said Scott will become an unrestricted free agent on March 11 (Tuesday) when free agents can begin signing with other teams. … "One option for Bernard will be to return to Baltimore," Casterline said. "But he'll have a market and we'll explore those options as well." … Scott was released by Cincinnati after the 2012 season and didn't sign with Baltimore until Oct. 28, 2013. The team released him on Dec. 7, but re-signed him on Dec. 10 after a season-ending injury to wide receiver to Brandon Stokley.
Information for this story provided by ACU.