Football: Tate, Burnett impress at Pro Day

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

The work is far from over, but a select few former Utah football players can finally rest more easily now.

The athletes, who started preparation for the U’s Pro Day immediately following their Poinsettia Bowl win over Navy, showcased two months of strenuous weight room work by performing a number of drills for 18 NFL scouts.

The results were a mixed bag. Some Utes did well enough to earn private auditions after the initial workouts. Others were left with the disappointment that accompanies not performing to your potential.

“You’d always love to do better, but all you can do at the end of the day is prepare for nine weeks (for Pro Day) and hope that it pays off on draft day,” former Utah safety Steve Tate said.

Tate has been one of the few athletes at the U receiving NFL Draft buzz this offseason. The Skyline High School product was listed by ESPN as a snub for the NFL Combine — which normally boasts the best talent in the upcoming draft — despite getting all-conference honors following the 2007 season.

After completing his planned workout Monday, Tate did personal workouts for the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts, among others. He is projected to be drafted somewhere between round five and seven.

“Fortunately, it seems like a down year for safeties, so that’ll help (me get recognized),” Tate said. “Not getting invited to the combine, you have to do what you can to mix with those that got invited, and I think I accomplished that today.”

Defensive end Martail Burnett also drew plenty of interest after an impressive workout Monday. As per the current NFL trend, the All-MWC end was being looked at as a down lineman and as an outside linebacker for 3-4 packages. Burnett says he felt good about his performance but could have done better in the unanticipated linebacker coverage drills.

“I’ve just got to polish up a little bit more in the linebacker areas,” Burnett said. “I’ve never played it before, and I haven’t had too much practice in that position. I’ve just got to improve in it from now on. If that’s what it’s going to take to make it, then I’ll do it.”

Others who competed at the U Pro Day were Derrek Richards, Brian Hernandez, Joe Jiannoni, Jason Boone, Kyle Gunther, Casey Sutera, Gabe Long, Tommy Grady and Darryl Poston.

Whether they felt good about their performance Monday or not, one thing is for sure: all of the athletes will rest much more easily now that they are done with the mentally and physically taxing Pro Day.

“I thought I was going to have a great night of sleep (Sunday night), and next thing I know, I woke up and my heart was thumping in my chest,” Long said. “I was like, ‘What if I don’t run this?’ or ‘What if I don’t run that?’ It definitely feels better knowing that I’m done with this.”

The former Utes now play the waiting game until the NFL Draft on April 26 and 27. Those that go without being drafted have the option to test the waters of free agency.

Notes: Hernandez and Richards both ran low 4.4s in the 40-yard dash then ran receiving drills, including Utah’s route tree from Grady. Grady was getting looks from multiple teams for his arm strength but did not participate in any of the running drills … Kyle Gunther bench-pressed 225 lbs. an impressive 33 times — four fewer than highly-touted Michigan offensive lineman Jake Long.

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Lennie Mahler

Utah defensive end Martail Burnett received interest from a number of NFL teams during Pro Day on Monday.