Football: Former Utes get chance to shine at Pro Day

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

For some former U football players, today is as close as they will ever get to a career in the NFL. For others, today is a platform that could potentially spring them toward achieving their dreams.

The U’s Pro Day is upon us, and there are a plethora of athletes from the U who are going to try to boost their draft stock by participating in different drills in front of NFL scouts.

Among those who will be trying to woo scouts today are safety Steve Tate, defensive end Martail Burnett, defensive tackle Gabe Long, middle linebacker Joe Jiannoni, offensive lineman Jason Boone and wide receivers Derrek Richards and Brian Hernandez.

Many of those players have been training in Park City for the past two months in preparation for today.

“It’s been a grind for the last eight weeks,” Tate said. “It’s been a six-days-a-week, four-hours-a-day kind of deal, so I’m ready for it to get here and be over with by now.”

Tate and his comrades will try to impress the NFL onlookers by running a gamut of drills, from weightlifting to the 40-yard dash to cone drills.

Various websites have tagged Tate, Boone and Jiannoni as Top-25 players for their respective positions, and others have the three listed to go in the later rounds of the draft. ESPN listed Tate as one of the biggest snubs for the NFL Combine in Indianapolis earlier this month after he was not invited to the event. The combine usually exhibits some of the best available prospects for the April draft.

“It’s disappointing, but I’m fortunate enough to have my name out there and people are recognizing me as a snub,” Tate said. “There are plenty of good things about doing these drills in Indy, but being familiar with your surroundings is as important as anything, and I’ll be comfortable here.”

Despite the snub, Tate said his agent has been in contact with a number of NFL teams who have expressed interest.

Of course, it helps to have somebody who has already gone through the debilitating pre-draft process to guide and mentor the potential professionals. That’s where U graduate and San Diego Chargers cornerback Eric Weddle comes in handy.

Weddle has been in constant contact with several of the players, giving them tidbits of advice and letting them know what to expect in the coming months.

“I just told the guys to get as much done as you can in training so that when the Pro Day rolls around, they’ll put themselves in a good position,” Weddle said. “Those guys have the talent to make a team and get some playing time.”

For Tate and the other Utes, having an experienced mentor such as Weddle is extremely helpful in these trying times.

“I talk to him all the time,” Tate said. “It’s definitely been helpful to have him to give me advice during this process. He’s done it before and he knows what needs to be done in order to make it at the professional level.”

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Steve Tate

Martail Burnett