CHARLESTON, S.C. – Six Charleston Southern players were among 11 professional football hopefuls that showcased their skills Monday at the program's pro day. Scouts from the New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers were on hand for workouts at Buccaneer Field and in the CSU weight room.
The event was the first large scale pro day held on the CSU campus, and the Bucs were well represented. Offensive lineman Erik Austell, the first player in program history to earn an invite to the NFL Combine, headlined the group. Joining Austell were running back Mike Holloway, long snapper Joseph Smith and linebacker Blake Wilson, along with 2016 CSU graduates Aaron Brown and Malcolm Jackson.
The Tampa Bay scout is also a regional scout who supplies times and measurables to all 32 NFL teams, giving Monday's participants a chance to impress. The afternoon started with completion of the 225-pound bench press and the vertical jump in the weight room, before moving to the field. A cold, dreary day made running conditions less than ideal but several excelled in the broad jump, 40-yard dash and an array of speed drills. The skill players capped the day's activity by catching passes, while Austell and Smith practiced snapping.
Ten days after finishing in the top half of his position group in all on-field drills at the Combine, Austell limited his work to position drills. The two-time FCS All-American is happy with where he stands a month and a half out from the NFL Draft.
"I talked with my agent about it a lot and there were some times I thought could done better but I was in the area most of the teams are looking at so I decided to do some position drills and just kind of cheer on everybody else that was going," Austell said.
Austell also got some advice from Jackson, his former team captain and a lockdown corner on the Bucs' 2015 Big South championship team.
"What he told me is actually something Charles James passed on to him," Austell said. "Have one positive play a practice (if you get a shot). It's hard in the NFL, as I'm sure Malcolm could tell you all about, but just one positive play that gives them something to look at and say 'dang, that was pretty good.' It's important to grab their attention and then from there, do more good than bad."
Holloway, who ran behind Austell to become CSU's all-time leading rusher, is glad to have the chance to put his name on the radar of pro scouts. Holloway's backfield mate, Darius Hammond, signed with the CFL's Ottawa Redblacks last month.
"I'm just blessed to have this opportunity to possibly go to the NFL and live out my dream," Holloway said. "I've been doing this my whole life. I love football so much and I want to continue to play if I have the opportunity. I've been working (with CSU strength and conditioning coach Chad Scott) on explosiveness, the bench test, all those things. Everything will correlate to the field in some kind of way."
Holloway and Smith will also compete at Coastal Carolina University's pro day on March 31.