KENT: The Kent State University Fieldhouse weight room was packed at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. But the offensive lineman whom scouts from 24 NFL and one CFL team came to see wasn’t able to bench press due to injury.
If Brian Winters needed a little ego boost, he got it. In fact, the morning became a career-affirming moment for Winters, a Hudson High School graduate.
“They were all at the combine. I’m blessed they took the time to come watch me here. I really appreciated that,” Winters said.
Several factors contributed to the unprecedented turnout, which was quite a contrast from 2012, when five NFL teams were represented. This time four offensive line coaches attended, including those from the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens. The Steelers sent three coaches and scouts, the Giants two, and the Browns were also there.
Winters stopped after nine bench-press repetitions during last month’s NFL Scouting Combine with a pectoral strain and did not participate in the rest of the drills. Last season, Kent State set a program record with 11 victories and went to its first bowl game in 40 years. And Ohio State is holding its pro day Friday, which enabled many of the scouts to double-dip.
There was no doubt the spotlight was on Winters, a left tackle at KSU who will likely play guard in the NFL. Pro Football Weekly’s 2013 Draft Guide projects him as a second- or third-round pick in the April 25-27 draft, and NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock ranks him as the fifth-best guard.
Winters again elected not to lift, on the advice of his agent Joel Segal and his doctor. When he does, Winters said it’s possible the session might be recorded and distributed to all interested teams.
“It was nothing major, a strain in my chest. I just have to lay off it for a couple weeks,” Winters said. “Strength is fine; everything’s fine. I’m going to wait, probably another month or so, and someone will probably come in here and record me. If they want that result they’ll definitely wait for it.”
Winters said when he had to put down the bar at the combine, he worried he had ruined his draft chances.
“At first, those were things that were going through my head,” he said. “But I calmed down, talked to my agent, talked to the head coaches. They said, ‘This is more oohing and aaahing, 99 percent of it is game film.’ As long as I was healthy for this, then I’m good. I had a good performance today.”
Standing 6-4 and weighing 315 pounds, Winters ran the short shuttle in 4.7 seconds (unofficially), hit 31.5 inches in the vertical jump and broad jumped 8 feet, 11 inches. During position drills, he also spent time at center.
The Tennessee Titans have a workout scheduled with Winters and left guard Josh Kline on Friday morning at 8, and Winters said he is flying to Tennessee for an April 1 visit. Winters and Kline blocked for two 1,000-yard rushers in Dri Archer and Trayion Durham in 2012 and Kline believes he’s benefited from the film study Winters is receiving.
A Mason (Ohio) High School graduate, Kline tied for the most reps in the bench press with 25.
“I do feel real lucky,” Kline said. “Because Brian didn’t do the combine, it helped me out a little bit, more scouts my way. I give a lot of kudos to him. The way Dri and Trayion ran, that helps, too. Not all of it’s us.”
Among those watching drills were Archer and KSU offensive coordinator Brian Rock.
“He’s a freak athletically and can run,” Rock said of Winters. “He’s a 315-pound man. I watched him broad jump 8-10¾, that’s a lot of weight to get moving that far.
“Kline can run, he’s very strong and he’s really tough. He was a state champion wrestler so he understands leverage. He can use his body to great advantage. Being able to parlay this thing together will help them both.”
Other top (unofficial) times were: Bench: long snapper Ryan Hidalgo (25); 40-yard dash: receiver Eric Adeyemi (4.48); broad jump: Adeyemi (10-1); three cone: linebacker Luke Batton of Nordonia High School (6.88); short shuttle: running back Larry Dawson of North High School (4.2); vertical jump: Dawson (34.5).
Cornerback Norman Wolfe of Buchtel called his performance “average” and was disappointed that the scouts didn’t want to see more position drills, where he could have showcased his skills.