EAST LANSING, Mich. -- The Michigan State football program held its annual Pro Day at the Duffy Daugherty Football Building indoor practice facility on Wednesday.
Thirty-seven personnel representing 30 NFL teams attended the event, in addition to one CFL team. Nineteen players from last year's team participated (LB Riley Bullough, OG/DT Brandon Clemons, S Demetrious Cox, LB Ed Davis, CB Darian Hicks, OL Kodi Kieler, FB Prescott Line, TE Jamal Lyles, OL Miguel Machado, WR Monty Madaris, DL Malik McDowell, OG Benny McGowan, S Montae Nicholson, QB Tyler O'Connor, TE Josiah Price, WR R.J. Shelton, DE Gabe Sherrod, RB Delton Williams, DT Kevin Williams).
For linebacker Riley Bullough, a two-year starter who was invited to the NFL Combine but was limited due to an injury, it was a chance to show the NFL scouts what he could do when fully healthy.
"I think it went great today," said Bullough. "It was good to be back, be with the guys and be able to showcase obviously some of the stuff I have been working on. Not being able to run at the combine, it was nice to do it here and put this phase behind me and start thinking about football again."
McDowell, who is currently ranked the No. 3 interior defensive lineman in the draft according to NFL Network's Mike Mayock, took part in position drills for scouts. A versatile defensive lineman who started games at both nose tackle and defensive end last season, McDowell kept his testing numbers from the NFL Scouting Combine, which included a time of 4.85 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Nicholson interviewed with teams in attendance, but didn't compete due to shoulder surgery he had done earlier this month. He was confident that his numbers from the NFL Combine -- featuring a blistering 4.42 time in the 40 -- will serve him well in the upcoming draft.
"I ran a pretty fast 40 at the combine," Nicholson said. "I'm pretty happy about my numbers. I'm even happier with the way the interviews went. I felt like I presented myself well. Showed more than just the football player that I am, I showed the person and type of character that I have, and I think it went really well.
"We had a plan to go to the combine, put up numbers. If I was happy with them, get the surgery right away afterwards, if not, come to Pro Day and take care of business there. I spoke with my agent, and he seemed to be happy with my numbers that I put up in Indy, and I was too. So we decided to get it done two days afterwards, so I can heal and be ready for wherever I go."
While Bullough, McDowell and Nicholson were at the NFL Combine, Pro Day was time for several other Spartans to showcase their abilities in front of the watchful eyes of NFL scouts, including All-Big Ten honorees Shelton and Price. Both were happy with how the day turned out for them.
"I felt like I did a really good job," said Shelton, who was named Michigan State's MVP in 2016 after recording career highs in receptions (53), receiving yards (789) and all-purpose yards (1,377). "Just trying to impress the coaches and the scouts and show that I am a top player in this draft among the wide receivers and just being a consistent player like I always am."
"I felt really good about how I did today," commented Price, who is Michigan State's all-time record holder among tight ends with 21 career touchdown catches. "I moved really well, tested very well and I feel very confident in it. I've put in a lot of work over these last two months training for today and it is a great relief. I'm very happy to be done with it and thankful for how I did."
O'Connor, who started nine games at quarterback in 2016, commanded the receivers, running backs and tight ends during the position drills. He was extremely efficient, connecting on 62 of his 64 passes on the day.
"All the quarterbacks under Coach Dantonio have had great opportunities to succeed in the NFL and I hope that it carries some weight for me," said O'Connor. "I certainly think it will. Talking with guys like Kirk (Cousins) and Drew Stanton and Hoyer (Brian Hoyer) and Connor (Cook), I certainly feel like I am able to throw with them and things like that. I have been throwing with Drew the last few months and I haven't been like `Oh my gosh, I can't do this.' I wouldn't be here today if I didn't think that I could."
"It's amazing -- it's the Spartan family," remarked Shelton. "Players coming back home because we were there when they did it. I know there are a lot of guys that wish they could have made it today. It's always nice to see guys come back to give us hope. We talk all of the time with guys who go through here. It's just amazing to see them and talk with them and have them cheer for you. It's a family-type thing that we have at Michigan State, so that is always nice."
The 2017 NFL Draft will be conducted April 27-29 (Thursday, April 27: first round; Friday, April 28: second and third rounds; and Saturday, April 29: fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds) in Philadelphia.
"(This day) is huge, this is bigger than me," said Shelton. "My family put me in this position. The community of Beaver Dam (Wisconsin) put me in this position and Michigan State put me in this position. So, this is bigger than me. It would be everything to me and my family to know that this was a dream that I had when I was younger, and to know I'm playing among the best NFL players would be a blessing."