Clear minds, full hearts, can’t lose

Tarleton Texans leave it all on the field for pro day

If you grew up playing sports, you are fully aware that whatever sport you invest your time in can easily become your lifestyle. The sport you play is your lifeline, and without it you are not quite sure who you are. When a sport becomes part of your identity, you set all of your dreams and your future on a ball,  a field, or a court, and nothing can take that away from you. That is until it comes to an end. For some, they dream of making it to a professional league. They have dreamed of it since they were young, and they are willing to do whatever it takes to get there. For a few Tarleton football players, they got their day to prove just how good they can be and prove they belong on the field with the best of the best in their sport. 

On Mar. 25, the Dallas Cowboys and the Cleveland Browns made a trip to small-town Stephenville, Texas  to see what kind of talent the Tarleton Football Program had to offer. This opportunity for the players is known as Pro Day. 

Pro Day is a day for college football players to showcase their skills at their home field. This is different from the NFL scouting combine that is held in Indianapolis, where the players travel in hopes of being picked up by an NFL team. One positive of having Pro Day at their school is that the athletes get to showcase their talents on a stage they have performed on many times before. Seven senior Tarleton football players and one Tarleton Football graduate were evaluated at Pro Day in Memorial Stadium. This included Tariq Bitson, Benjie Franklin, Devin Hafford, Tre Johnson, Jayy McDonald, Ryheem Skinner, Jonathan Uland, and Ronnell Wilson. 

Pro Day evaluates a number of different things from each player, and the Texans did not disappoint. 

Wide Receiver, Tariq Bitson, had a shuttle time of 4.33 seconds and a 3 cone drill time of 6.86. Bitson had a fantastic 2021 season with 42 receptions for 721 yards and 7 touchdowns. He also received first-team all WAC honors. 

Defensive Back, Benjie Franklin, ran a jaw-dropping 40 yard dash at 4.31 seconds. The average time, and the time that most prospects shoot for is running a 4.4, therefore, running a 4.31 is very impressive and was also the top time out of all the Texans who participated. Franklin had 32 solo tackles in the 2021 season with four assists for a total of 36. He also had three interceptions for 16 yards and six pass breakups. 

 Defensive Back, Devin Hafford, showed out for his Pro Day. He scored at the top for three of the things evaluated by the scouts. Hafford had a vertical of 38,” benched for 24 reps, and had a broad jump of 10’5.” The DB had 25 solo tackles this past season and 25 assists for a total of 50 tackles. He acquired three tackles for a total loss of nine yards. Hafford also had two fumble recoveries for 23 yards and six interceptions for 76 yards. 

 Defensive Back, Tre Johnson, was another contender at Pro Day. He obtained a shuttle time of 3.95 seconds and a 3-cone drill time of 6.71 seconds. Johnson had 27 solo tackles in the 2021 season as well as 12 assists for a total of 36 tackles. He also added an interception to his stats for five yards and six pass breakups.  

Running Back, Jayy McDonald, who was spotlighted  in the Black History Month special edition of the JTAC as someone who embodied black excellence on campus, was also a part of this big day. McDonald had a 40-yard dash time of 4.45 seconds. This is a good average for players to have when testing their 40-yard dash time and wanting to make it to the league. The stellar RB totaled 100 carries for 659 yards and four touchdowns in the 2021 season. He also attempted two kick returns in which he totaled 44 yards on. 

Running Back, Ryheem Skinner, was evaluated alongside his fellow RB Jayy McDonald. Skinner’s best event was his 3-cone drill at 7.25 seconds. Skinner had 87 rushing attempts for 432 yards and three touchdowns in the 2021 season. He also accumulated five receptions for 19 yards.

A former player made an appearance at the Tarleton Pro Day. Deep Snapper, Jonathan Uland, came to be a part of this special occasion. Uland’s best evaluation was his broad jump in which he jumped nine feet. Uland’s senior season was the 2020 season at Tarleton. 

Linebacker, Ronnell Wilson, a name that was heard often at Tarleton football games, was another one of the Texans that took part in Pro Day. Wilson recorded 23 bench press reps at his Pro Day for his best event evaluated. The LB recorded 34 solo tackles and 24 assists for a total of 58 tackles on the season in 2021. He also recorded seven tackles for loss and a total of 22 yards along with two sacks for a total loss of six yards. 

The work put in for Pro Day is unmatched. The athletes have spent their entire careers preparing for their day. They must prepare with physical training, dieting, and even working on their mental perspective. 

Devin Hafford has been playing football since he was four years old. His physical preparation included speed training, stretching, mobility exercises, and working on his explosiveness. For his mindset, he spent time doing yoga and going to church in order to ensure he was in the best mental shape possible. When he found out he was going to get to showcase his skills at Pro Day, he didn’t even use the word excited, but instead, he said it gave him a feeling of appreciation. “Having an opportunity to showcase my ability in front of NFL scouts gave me huge motivation,” Hafford stated. He recorded fantastic numbers on his day, and even he knew it. “Having good numbers at my Pro Day gave me the confidence in my ability to compete at the highest level of football, my biggest motivation was to make my family proud,”  Hafford said. The obvious end goal for this DB is to make it to the NFL. “Making it to the NFL would be a huge dream come true for myself,” Hafford stated. I have dedicated so much time and energy into the sport and into my body to make it to the highest level.”

RB, Ryheem Skinner, did something a little different to prepare, and his motivating factor is one that is inspiring. Skinner has been playing football since he was six years old. He prepared physically by working out and he also dieted to make sure he was fueling his body with all of the right things. In order to make sure he was mentally prepared for the day, he chose to spend some time with himself in order to be sure he remained focused on his goal, to perform well for the people that mattered the most on that day, the scouts. Skinner has been dreaming about going to the league since he was little. Therefore, when he found out that Tarleton would be having a Pro Day, he was motivated and ready to make a name for himself. His biggest motivation for this opportunity was his cousin, Jay Smith. “I lost him in 2014, ever since then I have repped the number 22 to remind me who and what I was doing this for,”  Skinner said. 

Whether or not these Tarleton Football stars make it to the league, they still got to experience what it looks like to be able to showcase all of their hard work that they have put in since they were young. A Pro Day is big for Tarleton football and brings exposure to the program, so that in the future more Texans will be able to prove themselves to the world. This day should bring motivation to those watching and remind them to never give up on their dreams.