They call these things "pro days," but in recent seasons at the University of Washington, the "pro" part has been only figurative.
When NFL talent evaluators showed up at UW during that span when the program was lying lifeless in the dumpster, it was a brief stop that didn’t require many note pads.
Consequently, no Huskies were drafted in 2008 and 2009. Only three total players were taken in 2006 and 2007, all in the fourth round.
No wonder they couldn’t compete on Saturdays in the fall. USC had three first-rounders in just the 2009 draft. Oregon had three second-rounders in that draft.
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On Wednesday, though, the Huskies showed off a pair of defenders who have legitimate NFL potential: linebacker Donald Butler and defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim. They have registered very respectable “measurables,” and both have the additional qualities of intelligence and high-motivation that will get them drafted and on an NFL roster this fall.
Yet the most attractive Huskies prospect of them all was hanging out as a spectator – quarterback Jake Locker. There was a reasonable gathering of scouts on Wednesday, but next year, when Locker finally decides it’s time for the NFL, parking will be scarce.
One of the more interesting moments of the day, in fact, was when new Seahawks coach Pete Carroll had a brief but apparently pleasant meet-and-greet with Locker in the weight room.
I couldn’t read either party’s lips from a distance, but there were plenty of smiles to go around.
Carroll appeared to have most of his staff on hand, along with general manager John Schneider.
Familiar faces abounded: Former Seahawks GMs Randy Mueller (Chargers) and Bob Ferguson (Colts), and former UW head coach and Seahawks assistant Keith Gilbertson (Browns).
The obvious focuses for them all were Butler and Te’o-Nesheim.
Butler bolstered his draft status at the recent scouting combine by bench pressing 225 pounds 35 times, the best of all linebackers, and ranking fifth in the entire collection of players. Wednesday, he added an impressive 35.5-inch vertical leap, and 40-yard times in the 4.6s. (Players weren’t told their times and no official clockings were reported).
Here’s what he looks like on the hoof: Fast and smooth. And the reports from scouts and coaches: He’s a quick learner who is versatile enough to play any of the three linebacker positions and be an immediate force on special teams.
“He’s got a lot of versatility to his game that can allow him to go play at that level and not just be a one-dimensional guy,” UW coach Steve Sarkisian said of Butler.
One scout I talked to said that Te’o-Nesheim also is on the rise and could be taken higher than people had been projecting.
At 6-foot-4, 267 pounds, he was clocked in the mid-4.6s, which is eye-catching. Te’o-Nesheim thought he did even better in the “multi-directional” drills, i.e., cones and shuttles, etc.
On top of doing pass-rush drills, Te’o-Nesheim was included in linebacker drills. One scout said that he thinks he could be a very nice fit as an ouside linebacker/pass rusher in a 3-4 defense.
“I know he has the most sacks in (UW) history,” the scout said. “But I think he might be a better player in the pros than he was in college.”
Sarkisian said that he could see in the way they conducted themselves in their drills the trademark of their play: competitiveness.
“Every drill means something, every rep means something,” Sarkisian said. “I’m really proud of them.”
When asked about Te’o-Nesheim specifically, Sarkisian nodded to the impressive numbers, but cited something else: “The one thing I want to say about him is his amazing effort. I’ve never seen a guy work, practice, play the way he plays … and it shows, that’s why he’s so productive.”
Just to have a couple players who look like reasonably sure bets for the draft is a positive sign for the Huskies. At the very least, they’re drawing a crowd of men with stopwatches and note pads.
“I don’t know if it’s a direct indication of how good you are as a football program,” Sarkisian said. “But it is somewhat of a direct indication of the type of football players (we) have.”
These two are good enough that they’ll be playing for money next fall.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440