Defensive tackle Andrew Billings stood in the Allison Indoor Facility, a huge banner of Danny Watkins looming over his right shoulder. Baylor honors its five NFL first-rounders under coach Art Briles with bigger-than-life banners on the west wall.
Billings and receiver Corey Coleman showed enough Wednesday during the school’s Pro Day that they expect to join Watkins, Jason Smith, Phil Taylor, Robert Griffin III and Kendall Wright with banners of their own.
For me to be up there says a lot.
Baylor receiver Corey Coleman, on hoping to join five other Baylor players under Art Briles who were first-round picks
“It’d be real cool,” Coleman said. “It’d be a blessing, because I know how much time and work these guys put in. So for me to be up there says a lot.”
The Bears drew representatives from all 32 teams, with 61 general managers, coaches and scouts on hand. The Steelers, who own the 25th selection, brought general manager Kevin Colbert, coach Mike Tomlin, offensive coordinator Todd Haley and defensive coordinator Keith Butler, along with scouts.
General manager Rick Spielman and receivers coach George Stewart showed up from Minnesota, and Texans coach Bill O’Brien stood out among his team’s large contingent.
While 16 prospects worked out, Billings and Coleman attracted the most interest.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and Texans coach Bill O’Brien were among the NFL notables on hand.
“They’re good football players,” said Alonzo Highsmith, the Packers senior personnel director. “They’re going to play pro football. I don’t know exactly where they’re going to get drafted, but they’re good kids and good players.”
Billings received a second-round grade from the draft advisory board, prompting him to leave school with a year of eligibility remaining. Many mock drafts, though, now project him as a late first-rounder.
The NFL invited him to Chicago for the draft — a sign that a prospect’s draft stock is pointing up — and he expects to accept.
“[Being a first-rounder] is definitely one of the biggest goals going into the draft,” Billings said, “but I’ll be happy just to be drafted.”
Billings, who weighed 311 pounds, helped himself in the 40-yard dash and position drills. Scouts recorded hand-held times ranging from 4.85 to 4.96 in the one 40-yard dash Billings ran.
No one had expected Billings to run after he posted a 5.05 in the 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine, but the All-American said he woke up feeling good.
I really did not want that 5.05 to be my last 40 time of my life, so I went out there and ran.
Defensive tackle Andrew Billings, on why he ran at the Pro Day after running at the combine
“I was waiting on it,” Billings said. “I was like, ‘You know what? I feel good; I feel fast.’ I really did not want that 5.05 to be my last 40 time of my life, so I went out there and ran.”
Billings’ strength already was legendary with a Texas prep weightlifting record while at Waco High School and the title of “College Football’s Strongest Player” from NFL.com. While he stood on his 31 reps in the 225-pound bench press at the combine, Billings wowed scouts with his feet Wednesday.
Billings said his time established a new personal best and allowed him to “separate” himself from the rest of the defensive tackles in the draft.
“He’s relentless,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “He’s just like a bulldog out there chasing the ball. He never stops. That part of him separates him. And then, he’s got an uncanny athletic ability for a guy his size. His lateral movement is really good. His explosiveness off the ball is pretty exceptional.
“And his body type, to me, fits good for an interior D-lineman, because his pads are low to begin with. So he does a good job keeping his pads down and getting after it. He’s tough, very physical.”
All Coleman needed to do was run a fast 40, which was hardly a challenge considering defensive backs have proved incapable of keeping up with him.
Coleman skipped the 40 at the combine while rehabbing from the sports hernia surgery before Baylor’s bowl game. He ran hand-held times ranging from 4.37 to 4.42, or fast enough.
He looked good today. The way he ran will help him.
Texans coach Bill O’Brien on Corey Coleman
“He’s a good player on tape, very productive,” said O’Brien, whose team holds the 22nd pick and seeks a speedy receiver to complement DeAndre Hopkins after signing quarterback Brock Osweiler in free agency.
“He looked good today. The way he ran will help him.”
Coleman called himself the draft’s best receiver prospect because of his ability to “do pretty much everything.” He nearly played both ways for the Bears against Oklahoma but suffered a hernia while practicing at cornerback leading up to the November game.
Despite his injury and the ones to Baylor’s three quarterbacks, Coleman still caught 74 passes for 1,363 yards and 20 touchdowns.
With a banner already on the east wall, celebrating becoming the school’s first Biletnikoff Award winner, Coleman could see his face on the west wall as a first-round pick.
It’s something he has dreamed about forever.
“Probably since I came out of my mom’s womb,” Coleman said. “When I was about 5 years old, I told my mom I wanted to go to the NFL. I just stuck with it, really.”
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