Penn State Football Players Shine in Front of NFL Teams During Pro Day
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — It was a good morning in Happy Valley for 15 former Penn Staters showcasing their skills at Pro Day.
Holuba Hall welcomed representatives from all 32 NFL teams as well as media personnel on Thursday morning to observe the 40-yard dash, three-cone drill and pro shuttle along with other workouts.
Safety Drew Hartlaub quickly attracted chatter with his blistering 40-yard dash of 4.22 seconds. Hartlaub’s run topped the prospect charts and would’ve been the fastest 40-yard dash time at the 2022 NFL Combine ahead of Baylor cornerback Kalon Barnes.
Safety Jaquan Brisker improved his 40-yard dash to 4.43, which matched wide receiver Jahan Dotson’s time recorded at the Combine. Dotson didn’t run at Pro Day.
For senior Jesse Luketa, Pro Day provided him a chance to “remove any doubt” about his ability to explode in and out of breaks and change directions. He didn’t run a 40-yard dash due to an apparent injury from the combine.
The former team captain’s experience playing dual positions at defensive end and linebacker increases his value for NFL teams looking for versatility in their picks.
“I want to be the most disruptive player on the football field,” Luketa said after his workouts. “Whether it’s linebacker position or defensive end, outside linebacker position, it doesn’t really matter.”
Luketa decided to declare for the draft after talking with his family following Penn State’s loss to Arkansas in the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day. He said those discussions made him realize his hopes of playing for the NFL were in sight.
The Dallas Cowboys have taken interest in the Ottawa native, as Luketa described his affiliation with defensive coordinator Dan Quinn as a “blessing.”
Junior linebacker Brandon Smith hopes to follow in the footsteps of former great Linebacker U products gone pro.
“It’s more than just a game to me,” Smith said. “It’s what I’ve been dreaming of doing ever since I was little.”
Smith said that working out with familiar personnel throughout Pro Day lessened the pressure when it came time to showcase skills for scouts.
Smith received personal instruction from Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebackers coach Jerry Olsavsky during field drills. Several NFL teams are in need of increasing defensive depth, including the black and gold.
As one of the most anticipated Penn State athletes to stand out at Pro Day, Dotson locked in and didn’t disappoint in workouts.
His former quarterback Sean Clifford was arranged to throw to Dotson during field drills as one last hoorah for the pair.
“I feel the most comfortable with him so I made sure that he would be the guy out here throwing to me,” Dotson said about the session. “It was beautiful.”
Draft projections place the Penn State single-game-receiving-record holder going in the first round. The last wide receiver for the blue and white to do so was Bryant Johnson, who went 17th overall to the Arizona Cardinals in 2003.
Dotson said he chooses not to dwell on where he’ll end up and instead focuses on the “therapeutic” feel of the football in his hands.
“When I’m in these lines, I feel like all that stuff is blocked out,” Dotson said.
The Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots both showed interest in Dotson at Pro Day. Workouts eventually concluded, but Dotson continued on with a post-workout meeting with the Patriots.
No official plans have been made by the Dotson family for draft night, but the occasion will be well-attended by Dotson’s support system.
“This is something that my parents have been sacrificing since I was a little kid to put me in the best position possible to be successful,” Dotson said. “It’s going to be cool to have them right by my side.”
Emma Holtz is a second-year majoring in public relations. To contact her, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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