ORONO — Kendall James managed to improve on his time in the 40-yard dash, even though his troublesome right hamstring has yet to completely heal.
“I still ran fast,” said the former University of Maine cornerback after working out Monday morning under the watchful eyes and twitchy stopwatch-thumbs of nine NFL scouts. “But imagine if it was 100 percent. Oh, man.”
A three-year starter at Maine and a first-time all-Colonial Athletic Association selection, James said he was clocked anywhere from “low 4.3 to 4.40, so around 4.35 maybe.” As the only Black Bear invited to the NFL Combine last month in Indianapolis, James was timed in 4.44 seconds, faster than all but six cornerbacks. The best time came from Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert, at 4.37, so Monday’s performance could improve James’ chances of becoming the first Black Bear drafted since Jerron McMillian was taken in the fourth round in 2012 by the Green Bay Packers.
Standing off to the side and watching the proceedings unfold inside the Latti Fitness Center and the Mahaney Dome, head coach Jack Cosgrove observed a scene inlike last year’s Pro Day, where only one scout ventured to Orono, and more like that following the 2011 campaign.
“They have their list,” Cosgrove said with a nod toward talent evaluators with the Patriots, Eagles, Raiders, Colts, Browns, Chiefs, Chargers and Buccaneers as well as a league-wide scout employed by the NFL, “but they also add to their list.”
Joining James from the CAA championship squad from last fall were quarterback Marcus Wasilewski, tight end Justin Perillo, wide receiver Derrick Johnson, tailback Rickey Stevens, defensive end Michael Cole, defensive backs Jamal Clay and Nicholas Cox, offensive linemen Tyler Patterson and Joe Hook, defensive lineman Erwin Roach and linebacker Troy Eastman. Linebacker Donte Dennis, who last played for Maine in 2012, and defensive back Trevor Coston, who was McMillian’s secondary mate in 2011 and went to training camps with Chicago and Detroit the past two seasons, also went through a battery of drills as a horde of current Black Bears looked on from the side.
“I felt like I needed to give it one more shot,” said Dennis, who spent five days last May in St. Louis at a Rams mini-camp. “Last year, there was only one scout here. I wanted to get some more eyes on me and see what happens.”
Amid the grunts of exertion and abrupt changes of direction on the artificial turf surface, the players tried to showcase strengths that might lead to a training camp invitation and possibly prolong their careers. The draft is scheduled for May 8-10.
“It was good to be able to finally do this,” said Johnson, who thought he might have done a bit better than his 4.44 clocking in the dash, and plans to attend a regional combine in Baltimore this weekend. “A shot, that’s all I’m looking for.”
“It seems like just yesterday that I was out here (watching others), thinking âThat’s going to be me,’ ” said tailback Rickey Stevens. “And now the day is here. This is just a great opportunity that everyone doesn’t get, so I’m truly blessed.”
Cole, Maine’s career leader in sacks, received a surprise just before taking his turn at the vertical leap. Scouts told him they wanted him to run through drills that pertain to a fullback, which included running pass routes.
“I had no idea going in,” Cole said. “No idea. I definitely could have worked on the hands a little more.”
Until Monday, Cole hadn’t run routes since “playing two-hand touch football as a kid.”
Eastman is one of those under-the-radar players whose measurements and times don’t leap off a clipboard. Cosgrove said the linebacker may have opened a few eyes Monday.
“The highlight definitely for me was the drills,” Eastman said. “I”m most comfortable with the more football-related stuff: following directions, running around, flipping my hips, getting out of my breaks. I didn’t drop a ball that hit my hands.”
“That really caught me eye,” Cosgrove said of Eastman’s performance. “In comparison to some of the other guys they came to see, he is relatively unknown. This is always a place they come to see some, but they get impressed by others.”
Wasilewski said regardless of what comes next, it was worthwhile to have one last time on the turf with teammates that achieved so much at Maine, including a 10-3 record and the school’s first home playoff game.
“We’ll just take it one day at a time and see what comes out of it,” he said. “Hopefully, something does. If not, I’ll be around sports for a long time.”
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or[email protected]Twitter: GlennJordanPPH