By Craig Morgan, thesundevils.com Writer
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Nobody can pinpoint the origin of college football pro days.
Tennessee Titans scout Marv Sunderland remembers working out Arizona State cornerback Michael Haynes on the grass in Tempe back in 1976 when they weren't even called pro days.
Sun Devils consultant John Wrenn remembers attending Terrell Suggs' pro day while Wrenn was still the coach at Chandler Hamilton, and current Sun Devil beat writers recalled Brock Osweiler's low-key pro day in 2011 when always colorful offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone was delighting reporters with his hilarious anecdotes.
Here's one thing everyone can agree upon, however: in the span of five short years, pro days have transformed into can’t-miss viewing under the media and scouting microscopes.
"It's become so important to find the right guy that the NFL alone has made it very big," Wrenn said.
In a Friday event split between the weight room at the Carson Student-Athlete Center and the Verde Dickey Dome, 15 of Arizona State's graduating seniors drew nearly 40 NFL scouts and representatives, between 40 and 45 media members, untold numbers of friends and family and at least a dozen player agents.
It was almost as if Sun Devil athletics had organized a circus with the Dickey Dome serving as the big top tent and various viewing stations arranged for everyone's entertainment.
The day began with players measuring their vertical leaps and bench press prowess with onlookers stationed one level above them on a balcony -- many of them current players who cheered their teammates efforts.
Offensive lineman Vi Teofilo wowed the crowd with 43 bench press reps and receiver running/back D.J. Foster impressed with his vertical leap.
When the scene shifted to the dome, quarterback Mike Bercovici turned in a superb passing session under the watchful eye of the NFL network and receiver Devin Lucien went shirtless to show off his blazing speed.
For offensive lineman Christian Westerman, the day was more about encouraging his teammates. Westerman had a terrific day at the NFL Scouting Combine earlier this month in Indianapolis. He is listed as one of the top four guards in the draft by some NFL experts and will likely go on the second day of the draft in Round 2 or Round 3.
For Foster, the day was all about proving he could clock elite times in the 40 to improve his draft stock -- a goal he accomplished when he ran anywhere from a 4.42 and 4.46.
“Going to the combine, not a lot of people see the three days prior to that and just the grind you’re putting in and going out there and just warming up a little and then trying to go out there and run," Foster said. “I just wanted to show that I do have that top-end speed along with the quickness, and I feel like I went out and did that today.”
For the vast majority of players, however, this was their big chance to get noticed by teams before charting the uncertain waters of rookie free agency. Westerman and Foster were the only two Sun Devils invited to the Combine so Bercovici's performance was a helpful step in at least getting invited to a team's camp.
"All my film is pretty much in shotgun," said Bercovici, who threw slightly less than his script of 53 passes. "I wanted to show that not only can I get under center and make all the throws but I have the personality and the presence of mind to be out here and prove that I can organize something like this, bring the best out of all the players and show I'm a high-character, high-effort guy who truly loves just coming out here having a day full of football."
For Devil backer Antonio Longino, the day was about showing scouts what they have been overlooking despite a season in which he finished second in the Pac-12 in sacks (10) and tackles for loss (19.5), displayed the versatility to play the hybrid defensive lineman-linebacker position, and was named Pac-12 defensive player of the week twice.
"I can bring so much to the table," said Longino, who can play both inside and outside and was perhaps the team's best defensive player this season. "There's been a lot of talk about what I can't do but I'll show how versatile I am and what I can do. It makes he hungry.
"Sleep on me if you want to. It's going to bite you in the end."