After missing out on NFL Combine invitations, long-time starters center Will Matte and defensive tackles Larry Black Jr. and Adam Replogle got their chance to prove themselves worthy of playing in the NFL.
“You always want to see your guys do well,” IU strength and conditioning Coach Mark Hill said. “You always want to see your guys get a shot with those ‘elite’ guys who get invited to the Combine. But they didn’t, and they handled it in stride.”
Replogle, IU’s most valuable player for the 2012 season, headlined the day with a bench press performance of 38 repetitions lifting 225 pounds, which would have been tied for the best of any Combine performer. He followed that performance with a vertical jump of 31.5 inches, which would have been good for fourth of any defensive tackle competing in the Combine.
In addition, his 40-yard dash time of 5.03 seconds ranked him tied for fourth of all Combine defensive tackles.
Since the season ended, Replogle has remained in Bloomington, training with Hill and IU’s strength and conditioning staff for the past 14 weeks. With his weight now more than 300 pounds, Hill said he is confident Replogle is in similar stature to other NFL players and prospects at his position.
Though Replogle did not get invited to the Combine, Hill said they both used it as motivation toward a strong pro day performance.
“It was out of my control, so I was just getting ready for the pro day,” Replogle said. “I can stand with the guys that got invited to the Combine. I think if you compare my numbers and stats to theirs, it’s pretty comparable. I think I came out there and proved myself.”
After their senior seasons ended, Black and Matte left Bloomington to train elsewhere — Black in Naples, Fla., and Matte in Plymouth, Mich.
In Matte’s first time back since December, the Wheaton, Ill., native highlighted his performance by bench-pressing 225 pounds on 31 repetitions, which would have been second-best of any center at the Combine. Black meanwhile unofficially ran a 4.9-second 40-yard dash, a time that no other defensive tackle had achieved at the event.
Despite no longer being under his watchful eye, Hill said he was pleased with the way both Matte and Black looked and performed on Monday.
“I think they both came back in shape, doing what they need to do and showcasing what they needed to showcase,” Hill said. “I think they looked great.”
The other performers at IU’s pro day included safety Alexander Webb and former running back Darius Willis. Webb graduated in December after playing in 10 games and recording 14 tackles during the 2012 season.
After multiple off-the-field issues, Willis left the program after IU Coach Kevin Wilson took over in 2010. At one point, he had even participated in a professional wrestling match. Now focused on football, Willis ran a 4.47-second 40-yard dash on Monday.
The five former Hoosiers now must wait until the NFL Draft in late April at the earliest to learn of their fate. Both Matte and Replogle reiterated they do not have high expectations of being picked but hope they can sign with a team as an undrafted free agent. Matte said he plans on watching the Draft from a couch in his basement at home.
For IU's prospects, Monday’s results add another piece to the puzzle of determining whether they will be spending their professional careers in the NFL.
“I know it’s going to be tough to get drafted, but I really just want to get one opportunity,” Matte said. “I feel like I can turn some heads if I get the foot in the door.”
“But I’m having fun with the process. It can be nerve-wracking at times, but overall I am so lucky to be in this position.”
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