For quarterback Ryan Nassib, it was business as usual. For defensive end Deon Goggins, it was a dream come true.
The two were among 15 former players who worked out Thursday for 29 NFL teams at Syracuse’s pro day inside Manley Field House, and Nassib, the Orange’s record-setting quarterback, performed almost flawlessly. He threw 74 passes in a scripted drill to four former teammates – wideouts Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales and tight ends Carl Cutler and David Stevens.
”It’s my third go-round in this type of environment. It’s a little easier,” Nassib said. ”It was pretty cool being able to showcase my talents in front of a bunch of scouts and coaches. I feel like I did great. A lot of them bailed me out with some great catches. With the intensity of the day, we were all sucking wind.”
Nassib said he hadn’t had much interaction with former Syracuse coach Doug Marrone, now head coach of the Buffalo Bills. But Bills general manager Buddy Nix has indicated his intention of selecting a quarterback high in the draft, which puts Nassib on their radar. Nassib has a private drill scheduled with the team.
”At the end of the day, it’s not like picking a college. A team picks you,” Nassib said. ”You never know. If any team wants to call my number, I’ll be ready to go.”
So, too, will Goggins, a Los Angeles native who transferred to Syracuse from Cerritos Community College. He was disheartened when he wasn’t invited to the NFL combine and was eager to show the scouts he was ready for the next level.
”I’ve been looking at the combine since it was on TV,” Goggins said. ”I came out here with a boulder on my shoulder. I felt as though I should have had a turn at the combine, but everything happens for a reason. I came out here healthy. I was able to compete.
”This is my only shot,” said Goggins, who impressed with a 4.5-second performance in the 40-yard dash. ”This is my only time, other than the all-star game I played in, to get in front of some scouts, show `em what I can do. It was a good thing. I’m pretty confident. This is a business. You never know. I just want to get my foot in the door.”
Goggins said he was ”a little jittery” when he woke up but felt a sense of calm after he face-timed his son right before we went out.
”Deon really lit it up. He put himself on the map today,” said Will Hicks, the Orange’s assistant athletic director of athletic performance and the man in charge of the day’s activities at Manley.
Hicks said it was the largest contingent of players for a pro day at Syracuse since 2004. That’s a positive sign for new coach Scott Shafer in the wake of Marrone’s sudden departure in January after two bowl victories in three years. The program is in a much better place than it was before Marrone’s four-year stint at his alma mater.
Among the former players working out were Mike Holmes and Olando Fisher, as well as offensive tackle Justin Pugh, who skipped his final year of eligibility to enter the NFL draft. A three-time All-Big East selection, Pugh missed the first four games of the 2012 season recovering from shoulder surgery, but the Orange won six of their final eight games after his return, capping an 8-5 season with a victory over West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Hicks said Pugh was in top shape and bench-pressed 225 pounds 23 times, the most he’s ever done. But the centerpiece of attention for much of the day was Nassib. One of only 16 National Football Foundation scholar-athletes in 2012, he set single-season school records for passing yards (3,749), touchdown passes (26), completions (284), passing yards per game (288.4), and total offense (3,891).
”Every team has a tremendous amount of respect for Ryan because of his work ethic and what he brings to the table, his intelligence, the type of pro he will be,” Hicks said. ”It just depends on which team you talk to as to what their needs are. The Denver Broncos don’t really need a quarterback right now. The Saints are here, but they don’t need a quarterback, but they were still watching everything he did today. You never know.
”Every team likes Ryan. It’s just right now we’re in the business of who likes him the most and where it may fall.”
The Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings did not participate, but Hicks said they are coming, while the Washington Redskins’ flight was canceled.