Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Zach Wilson throws at the Indoor Practice Facility during BYU Pro Day on March 26. Wilson showed off in front of 31 NFL teams ahead of the next month's draft. (Preston Crawley)

Zach Wilson and other NFL hopefuls showcase skills at BYU Football Pro Day

BYU Football held its 2021 Pro Day on Friday, drawing representatives from 31 NFL teams to Provo as projected top-five draft pick Zach Wilson and other former Cougars performed a variety of drills at the Indoor Practice Facility.

The highlight of the event was a 60-yard throw from Wilson that NFL Network analyst Rhett Lewis called “the throw of the Pro Day season.” The recipient of the pass was Aleva Hifo, one of six Cougars from the 2019 team in attendance that didn’t get a chance to have a Pro Day last year due to COVID-19.

Wilson did not participate in any of the traditional drills such as the 40-yard dash or vertical jump, but did put on a passing performance of over 60 throws with receivers Hifo, Dax Milne, Micah Simon and Matt Bushman.

Dane Brugler, an NFL Draft analyst for The Athletic, said he received a text from an NFL scout in attendance at Pro Day saying that Wilson is locked in as the second pick in the 2021 NFL Draft on April 29, following Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence at No. 1. “The draft starts at three,” Brugler’s source said.

Among the NFL representatives at BYU Pro Day were the general managers from the New York Jets, Joe Douglas, and San Francisco 49ers, John Lynch, who now hold the second and third picks in the draft, respectively.

Wilson was asked specifically about New York, and said “it’s a great spot,” and that he has family in the area. In the end, though, he said, “I’ll be happy with any team that drafts me.”

Aleva Hifo, left, and Zach Wilson prepare for a throwing drill at BYU Pro Day. Hifo said Wilson flew him out to California three times to work on the passing script together ahead of the big event. (Preston Crawley)

The attention and conversations before, during and after the Pro Day all centered on Wilson. Players were asked about him during media availability afterward, with teammates praising Wilson’s work ethic, growth and maturity over his years in Provo.

“He hasn’t let the hype go to his head,” offensive lineman Tristen Hoge said. “He’s matured so much as a player and a man. He deserves everything coming his way.”

Hoge and others mentioned all the “eyes” that Wilson brought to Pro Day and how it benefitted under-the-radar players who may not have been seen by NFL scouts, coaches and executives at all, let alone 31 of the 32 teams in the league.

“My goal was just to get one person’s attention, and we had a lot of eyes today,” Hifo said.

Dax Milne performs a drill in front of several NFL scouts and other spectators in the Indoor Practice Facility. Milne and others benefitted from the added eyes in attendance to see Zach Wilson perform live. (Preston Crawley)

Cornerback Chris Wilcox said it was a “bummer” not to have an NFL Combine this year due to COVID-19, but said there were “no excuses” now with an opportunity like Friday’s Pro Day to showcase their skills and talents.

Wilcox had one of the more eye-popping numbers in the physical tests, running a 4.31-second 40-yard dash to lead all participants. Other big stats from the day were offensive lineman Brady Christensen’s 10-foot-4 broad jump and defensive lineman Khyiris Tonga’s 35 bench press reps.

NFL analyst Brandon Thorn said Christensen’s jump is the best measurement all-time by an offensive lineman by three inches. Tonga’s bench press performance was better than JJ Watt’s in 2011 and tied with Aaron Donald’s in 2014.

Following the event, NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said he viewed five former Cougars as being “draftable” next month: Wilson, Christensen, Bushman, Wilcox and Milne. Christensen could go as high as the second round, while the remaining three will likely get the call in later rounds or during the free-agent signing period.

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