Between the NFL Scouting Combine and the 2018 NFL Draft, coaches and scouts turn their attention to pro day workouts. While these are not as all-encompassing as the Combine, they are important enough for the key decision-makers in the league to travel around the country for more than a month to watch the talent up close and in person.
On Tuesday, eight athletes from Southern New England colleges and universities put their talents on display at the Conaty Indoor Facility at Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island. They did so with the hope of catching the eye of at least one pro scout. Simply stated, they put their best foot forward (literally and figuratively) towards the dream of playing professional football in the NFL.
Here is a brief look at the participants:
Matt Sewall – Wide Receiver, Bryant University
Sewall appeared in and started 10 games for the Bryant University Bulldogs in 2017. He caught a career-high 46 passes for 502 yards and six touchdowns. In displaying his versatility, Sewall also carried the ball eight times for 117 yards and returned eight punts for 71 yards (8.9 avg.). The 5’10’ wide receiver became the fifth player in school history with 100 receptions in a career. He finished his collegiate career ranked in the top 10 in program history in receiving yards (7th, 1,219), receptions (5th, 100), reception touchdowns (3rd, 15), all-purpose yards (10th, 2,125) and total touchdowns (10th, 17.)
Mike Ezirike – Defensive Lineman, University of Rhode Island
At 6’2″ 270 lbs, Ezirike was one of the Rhode Island Rams’ most fearsome defenders. In 2015, he earned CAA Football Third Team All-Conference honors. Ezirike played a total of 44 games for the Rams. He had 46 tackles, averaging 2.1 tackles per game. The Rams’ DL had 8.5 career sacks, totaling 51 yards in losses. Ezirike also contributed 24 tackles for loss (93 yards) to the Rams’ defensive attack.
Harold Cooper – Running Back, University of Rhode Island
During his tenure at Rhode Island, Cooper proved to be quite the force in the Rams’ ground attack. He was a 2016 CAA Football Second Team All-Conference kick returner and earned First Team honors in 2015. Also in 2015, Cooper earned CAA Football Third Team All-Conference honors as a running back. He was named to the 2015 CFPA All-Purpose Performer of the Year Watch List. Throughout his career, he has three career 100-yard rushing performances, as well as 17 career 100-yard all-purpose games. Cooper also earned a Gold Helmet from the New England Football Writer’s Association for his play during the week of Oct. 12, 2016.
Jose Duncan – Defensive Lineman, University of Rhode Island
Duncan was one of Rhode Island’s most explosive playmakers during his time in Kingston. He earned an Honorable Mention at the College Football Performance Awards on October 18, 2014. He was a Third-Team All-CAA Football Selection in 2016. Throughout his career, he amassed 84 tackles, averaging 3.8 per game. He totaled 12.5 sacks (100 yards), as well as 25 tackles for loss (130 yards)
Harold Buckner III – Wide Reciever, University of Rhode Island
A speedy route runner, Buckner has two career 100-yard receiving games to his career credit. Throughout his Rams tenure, he totaled 35 receptions, averaging 2.1 yards per completion. Buckner gained a total of 442 yards, averaging a 12.6 yards per game. He had two career touchdowns in 17 games played.
TJ Anderson – Running Back, University of Rhode Island
Anderson is a 6-0, 225-pound power back, that was a key component in the Rams ground game. In 38 career games played, Anderson rushed for a total of 802 yards, on 243 carries. He averaged 21.1 yards per game and 3.3 yards-per-carry. Anderson had 7 career touchdowns.
Mack Lowrie – Quarterback, Bentley University
One of the Falcons’ captains, Lowrie came to Bentley in 2016 after previously attending Boston College and Rhode Island. Throughout his career, he threw for 2096 yards with 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Despite fighting injury this past fall, Lowrie played six games, completing 61 percent of his passes for 1,310 yards, 11 touchdowns, and four interceptions. He threw five TD passes in a 40-21 win over then nationally-ranked LIU Post. From Jan. 6-10, 2018, Lowrie participated in the fourth annual College Gridiron Showcase, held in Addison, Texas.
Joe Colton – Defensive Back, UMASS
Colton was a mainstay of success in the University of Massachusetts’ backfield. He earned a scholarship to UMASS after walking onto the team out of Xaverian Brothers High School. Thus, he also earned his way into a starter’s role for essentially his entire career. In three-plus seasons, he totaled 286 tackles (14.5 for loss) with three interceptions, two sacks, two forced fumbles and 10 pass breakups. In 2015, Colton was one of 55 nominees for the Burlsworth Trophy, which is awarded annually to the nation’s best former walk-on player.
Diamonds in the Rough?
While Southern New England is not often considered among the most popular hotbeds of college football, it has its share of promising young athletes. As are all professional hopefuls, they will be measured on their statistical results. Yet, putting drills and workout routines aside, heart and perseverance are also measured at an event such as Pro Day. On Tuesday, each of these competitors displayed the talent that can make an impact on a professional level. Hopefully, they will receive that chance, in some professional forum. While their futures have yet to be determined, it is certain that all of Southern New England is wishing these athletes the very best of luck as they pursue their dreams.
–Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and National Columnist for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the NFL and the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC.