NFL scouts from 29 teams watched 22 players workout during Baylor’s Pro Day. But two prospects arguably had more to prove than the others.
All eyes were on quarterback Seth Russell and receiver Ishmael Zamora, both of whom answered questions on and off the practice field Wednesday.
It was Zamora’s first chance to perform in front of scouts after not being invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. He measured 6 foot 3, weighed 224 yards, ran 40 times of 4.53 and 4.51, lifted the 225-pound bench press 13 times and went 40 inches in the vertical jump and 11 feet, 1 inch in the broad jump.
“Zamora can be great,” said receiver KD Cannon, who is expected to be Baylor’s top draft choice. “He has great body frame, fast, physical, and he can catch the ball. Zamora can be a great NFL receiver.”
Zamora has limited experience, playing in only 23 games with eight starts in two years. The NFL Draft Advisory Board recommended that he return to school.
Baylor suspended Zamora for three games last season after a Snapchat video showed him hitting his dog with a belt and kicking it. Police charged him with a misdemeanor, and he received a citation for animal abuse, which resulted in the combine ban.
Zamora faces questions about the video during every interview with NFL teams. He visited Oakland earlier this week and has visits scheduled to Cincinnati and the Los Angeles Chargers. Zamora said he was incorrectly “portrayed” by the media.
“I really want [teams] to know that I’m really a nice guy,” said Zamora, who said racial slurs were directed at him on social media after the incident. “I’m a family man. I really love my family, and I love my dogs as well. I’m just not an aggressive guy. I’m not somebody you have to worry about in the future like coming up on TV.”
Both Zamora and Russell have to overcome questions about whether Art Briles’ spread offense leaves players ill-prepared for the NFL. One scout pointed to the wall of Baylor’s recent first-round offensive draft picks and noted none have panned out as expected.
Russell’s personal quarterbacks coach, Jon Kitna, addressed the stigma the first day he worked with Russell.
“The first thing I told him is the NFL makes judgments early,” said Kitna, a former Cowboys backup quarterback who now coaches at Waxahachie High. “You’re always going to have ‘Baylor quarterback. Baylor quarterback. Baylor system.’ But I have no reservations about him.”
Dr. James Bothwell, whose practice is in Fort Worth, cleared Russell only six weeks ago after left ankle surgery in November. Russell fractured his ankle Nov. 12 against Oklahoma, 13 months after he fractured a bone in his neck.
Russell spent 11 hours in the hospital during the combine in February, undergoing three MRIs, 30 X-rays and one CT scan. He’ll return to Indianapolis for medical rechecks next week and plans to run and perform drills for scouts on April 20.
Russell, who estimates his ankle is 85-90 percent, threw 60 passes Wednesday and felt good about all except two.
The Garland product will throw for the Cowboys on Friday during the team’s annual Dallas Day.
“I want to go in the first round,” Russell said. “I think that’s kind of out of reach right now. Getting drafted would be cool, to be able to get an opportunity. Looking at statistics, I think it’s like players who get drafted in the first three rounds makes up like 20 percent of the NFL teams. So if I get drafted somewhere later than that, then I’ll have a pretty good chance. I’m a grinder; I’m a fighter. I’m not going to let anything get to my head. I’m going to push it aside and keep working harder.”