SDSU Pro Day, a talent showcase for ten hopeful Aztecs

The participants wait for instruction on the cone drills (Don De Mars/EVT)

The defensive players take instructions on the next drill from a scout. (Don De Mars/EVT)

San Diego State hosted its annual Pro Day on Friday, March 17, for ten of its former student-athletes who are hoping to play in the NFL in 2023. 

Seyddrick Lakalaka running the short shuttle drill. (Don De Mars/EVT)

The participants included five offensive players (RB Jordan Byrd, C Alama Uluave, WR Jesse Matthews, WR Tyrell Shavers, and WR Braxton Burmeister) and five defensive players (DL Jonah Tavai, DL Justus Tavai, DL Keshawn Banks, LB Caden McDonald, and LB Seyddrick Lakalaka). 

The NFL Draft will be held in Kansas City, Missouri, on April 27 through 29. 

None of the ten SDSU players were invited to the Scouting Combine, so this opportunity was their first chance to officially record their measurements and times for NFL scouts. 

An official count of teams represented by scouts at the event was not provided, but from what could be seen from spectators, about 15 scouts were in attendance. 

The first portion of the event was held inside SDSU’s weight room for various measurables (height, weight, hand size, vertical jump, and broad jump) and bench press repetitions of 225 lbs. The media was not allowed to attend this portion. 

Following that portion, the players made their way outside to the practice field to perform three timed speed and agility drills and then specialized drills based on their positions.

Jonah Tavai running the 3-cone drill. (Don De Mars/EVT)

Nine of the ten players ran the 40-yd dash twice, with Banks the only one that did not participate. All ten ran the short shuttle and three-cone drills. Several players slipped during the hard back-and-forth cuts during the short shuttle and were able to redo them. 

During the three-cone drill, which is used primarily to determine a player’s agility, quickness, and fluidity, the far cone that players are required to run around in a figure-eight and back to the middle cone was knocked down a few times.

Official times were not reported or provided to the media. 

Bo Marchionte from NFL Draft Sports Illustrated posted Uluave’s full measurements and times on Twitter. Uluave helped himself immensely today with his performance. 

Other unofficial 40-yard dash times overheard at Pro Day were 4.9 by Jonah Tavai and 4.4 by Byrd and Burmeister. 

The individual position portion started with Byrd and Burmeister catching punts from a jugs machine. Unfortunately, the machine needed a few practice attempts to figure out the right depth as the first one went about ten yards past Byrd, while the next three landed about ten yards short. Eventually, the balls came to the right spots for the two returners to show their catching abilities and immediate bursts with the ball.

Caden McDonald shows off his long snapping abilities to scouts. (Don De Mars/EVT)

Next, the three wide receivers and Byrd took turns running various routes with passes thrown by former USD QB Judd Erickson. The routes included slants, ins, outs, curls, posts, go routes, and goal line fades. On one go route, Matthews had a misstep and landed awkwardly on one leg. He walked gingerly back to the start of the drill about 50 yards but did not miss any reps.   

The defensive players and Uluave then participated in a number of cutting and pursuit drills aimed at linemen and linebackers. Uluave ran a change of direction drill, where he was given quick asks by the drill leader to go left, right, forward, or back and he performed flawlessly while drawing large applause from the group of friends, family, and teammates in attendance. 

The final position drill of the day was a surprising one. McDonald performed long snapping for punts, something he is hoping to showcase for scouts and NFL executives to add to his positional versatility as a defensive player.  

Following the activities, EVT had a chance to catch up with four of the participants. Here is the Q&A. 

Tyrell Shavers at Pro Day. (Don De Mars/EVT)

Tyrell Shavers

Q: How did it go today?

A: “I feel like today was honestly a success. Did the numbers I wanted to do. Overall it was really good. I feel like a lot of teams noticed me. Now things will slow down and (need to) wait for the (draft) day to get that phone call.”

Q: What will you do for the next 40 days up until the draft? 

A: I’m going back home and going back to work like today has not happened yet. Just keep working. I could get a call from a team that wants me to work out for them, so I want to be ready.” 

Q: How important is it to go through today and this process with nine teammates?

A: “It’s a blessing. I’m glad we had a lot of talented guys on the roster last year. It makes this process a lot easier because every eye is not all on you.”

Braxton Burmeister at Pro Day. (Don De Mars/EVT)

Braxton Burmeister

Q: How did it go today?

A: “It went well. There are some things that I felt like I could have done better, but overall a solid day.”

Q: How comfortable do you feel at the WR spot after moving over midseason? 

A: “I feel really comfortable in the slot and feel like that’s where I looked the best today and showcased my talent there.”

Q: What will you do for the next 40 days up until the draft? 

A: Since I am switching positions, just grinding out the technique every day, working on releases, catching 100 balls a day, whatever I need to do to be ready.”

Q: How important is it to go through today and this process with nine teammates?

A: “It’s awesome being out there with the guys one more time. Felt like gameday, which was really fun.” 

Jesse Matthews at Pro Day. (Don De Mars/EVT)

Jesse Matthews

Q: How did it go today?

A: “I’m happy. It’s a relief to get the process over with. I’m pleased with what I did with the drills and position work.” 

Q: You landed awkwardly on a catch attempt on a go route, how are you feeling? 

A: I’m good. I have an angel looking over me. It was a little scary, but I feel good.” 

Q: What will you do for the next 40 days up until the draft? 

A: “I’m going to stay in San Diego and train with Alex Johnson. Work on endurance, football strength, and explosiveness. Things that are going to help me play football, not do these drills.”

Q: How important is it to go through today and this process with nine teammates?

A: “Super comforting to be around my brothers again. We are all pulling for each other and want to see each other do well.”

Alama Uluave

Alama Uluave at Pro Day. (Don De Mars/EVT)

Q: How did it go today?

A: “I thought my day went pretty well. I thought I was able to showcase my athleticism as a center and was satisfied with my bench and 40. I thought the energy was good out there on that field for the last time. I had fun with it and was just excited to be here.” 

Q: What are you hearing from scouts about your projection for the draft and position for the NFL? 

A: “I’ve been hearing about late-round to Undrafted Free Agent (UDFA) projections, but all I needs is a chance anywhere, and I can make it work.”

Q: What will you do for the next 40 days up until the draft? 

A: “Now I’m just going to be training and relaxing with my family and friends until the draft.”

Quick Notes

  • NFL TE Daniel Bellinger was among many former Aztec football players in attendance to support former teammates. 
  • Former WR Elijah Kothe, also in attendance, transitioned to coaching after his football career and is currently the co-offensive coordinator and QBs coach at Concordia University Ann Arbor in Michigan.
  • Recently retired LB Michael Shawcroft also attended but was on crutches due to a recent knee surgery that he hopes to be his last as he transitions to life after football.
  • Former LS Jacob Raab was in attendance to support former teammates as he trains locally in San Diego; Raab, who transferred to Colorado State for his final collegiate season in 2022, will participate in the Rams’ Pro Day in a few weeks.
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