After all the years of proving themselves on the field, whether four former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football players and one former local high school star get a chance to continue their careers likely came down to a workout routine that lasted about one nerve-racking hour.
Former Mocs linebacker Wes Dothard and defensive backs D.J. Key, Chaz Moore and Kadeem Wise, the team's four leading tacklers from last year, and former Brainerd High and Eastern Kentucky receiver Orlandus Harris worked out Tuesday morning for NFL scouts from the Atlanta Falcons, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Giants and San Diego Chargers.
Those players nervously watched the scouts write notes about their performances, each hoping to have shown reason to be taken in the NFL draft or at least given a shot to earn a spot through post-draft free agency.
"You play ball all your life and it can go either way in one day," Moore said afterward. "I couldn't sleep at all last night. I was excited, anticipating getting out here. You train so hard, prepare yourself mentally and physically since the end of the season, and it all comes down to one day.
"I'll just leave it in God's hands and hope for the call. Hopefully with today, plus my film, it will catch somebody's eye."
The day began inside the UTC weight room, where the players were tested in the bench press and vertical jump, before moving to Scrappy Moore Field to be measured and timed in the long jump, 40-yard dash and a variety of agility drills.
Wise had the best overall numbers among the former Mocs, bench-pressing 225-pounds 15 times and turning in a 4.47-second time in the 40.
"It's a whole lot of pressure for one day," said Wise, last season's third-leading tackler, who added that he likely will work out at the Falcons' pro day later this month. "I barely got much sleep just thinking about it, and then you have about 40 minutes out here and it's over. I did all I could do to get their interest, so now it's just about wait and see."
Harris was a preseason All-America selection going into his junior season at Eastern Kentucky but tore the ACL in his left knee and wound up transferring to Glenville State for one season. He sat out last season and has been working out for several months in preparation, including running routes for Peyton Manning several times at a local field when the star quarterback is in town.
The 6-foot, 190-pound Harris, who also had a good showing at a recent combine in Atlanta, had the best numbers of any of the athletes Tuesday, running a 4.43-second 40, broad jumping 10 feet, 11 inches and notching a 36.6-inch vertical jump to go with 12 reps of 225 pounds on the bench.
When the workout ended, each of the four NFL scouts gathered around Harris to ask questions and take his cell number to potentially set up another round of testing.
"Overall, I felt like I had a great day," said Harris, a former state champion decathlete. "The scouts all said they were impressed with what I showed, so that made me feel good. I've been working really hard for this chance, so I knew I was ready.
"These guys are the guys who decide if you can make it or not. It's not just about today or looking at my film. I mean you want to catch their eye, and any time you have another chance to show them what you can do, you have to be ready, so I'll keep training and be ready."
Contact Stephen Hargis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6293.
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...