Vereen and Hageman finish off Pro Day, anxiously await NFL Draft
MINNEAPOLIS — Brock Vereen hadn’t been back to the University of Minnesota campus since leaving with the Gophers’ football team for the Texas Bowl in December.
Vereen, the former Minnesota safety, has been in California while training for the NFL Scouting Combine in hopes of hearing his name called during May’s NFL Draft.
Back on campus for the Gophers Pro Day, Vereen summarized a whirlwind two months.
"Just trying to show what I can do," Vereen said. "It’s been a fun two months, a very fun two months. Just coming back here makes you realize how fast everything went. But it feels good to be back here."
Vereen hopes the next two months goes just as quickly. The wait for May’s draft is going to be a long one for Vereen and former teammate Ra’Shede Hageman, who has a chance to be a first-round pick in May.
"It’s going to be horrible," Vereen said about the wait. "And the fact that they moved the draft back three weeks, it will be hard. I’ll start a Netflix series or something."
Vereen and Hageman were two of nine former Minnesota players working out on Monday at the Minnesota’s football complex for the Gophers Pro Day.
Jeremy Baltazar, Jake Filkins, Aaron Hill, Roland Johnson, Victor Keise, James Manuel and Martez Shabazz also worked out in front of a group that included scouts or coaches from 19 NFL teams. Derrick Engel wasn’t able to work out as he recovers from a knee injury.
Hageman and Vereen stood by their measurable from last week’s combine in Indianapolis and just performed in the positional drills, which were run, in part, by several Vikings’ coaches in attendance.
Set to take a tour of TCF Bank Stadium — where they will play the next two seasons — the Vikings had a large contingent, including general manager Rick Spielman, new head coach Mike Zimmer, offensive coordinator Norv Turner, defensive coordinator George Edwards and special teams coordinator Mike Priefer.
Hageman, who got the chance to talk with Zimmer 1-on-1 for a short time, shook his head at the idea of waiting until May’s draft.
"That is a very long time," Hageman said. "So I’m just going to barricade myself in my room and play video games and just work out really. Just kind of stay out of the public and just kind of focus on the main goal and continue to work out."
Hageman has the chance to be the first Gophers’ player selected in the first round since running back Laurence Maroney in 2006. He came in at 6-foot-6 and 310 pounds at the combine and stood out with his athleticism in tests and drills. Hageman ran an official 5.02-second 40-yard dash. He was tied for third among all defensive line with 32 repetitions on the bench press. He was seventh among defensive linemen in the vertical leap and tied for 14th in broad jump.
"I felt like my numbers were OK," Hageman said of the combine. "I felt like today I was just going to focus on drills. Obviously the coaches came out and they wanted to see me do drills and just see how my footwork is and my technique, so I feel like it was a good move for me. I feel like I put a good amount of numbers just to stand out at the combine. That’s over and down with, no I just have to wait."
Vereen made a name for himself at the combine, standing out among the many defensive backs and putting himself in position to be drafted.
"When you watch him on tape, his versatility to play safety and then you’ve seen him play some (nickel back) and then at the end of the season you seen him play corner, and just how smart he is and aware he is when you watch the tape on him," Spielman said. "And then he goes to the combine and blows out a 40. I think he ran in the 4.4s at the combine, so that really opened a lot of people’s eyes. And then have a chance for our coaches actually get here and put their hands on these kids a little bit. We’re excited."
At 6-foot, 199 pounds, Vereen has speed, strength and the versatility from playing each spot in the secondary. Before the draft process started, Vereen might have been a late-round pick or priority undrafted free agent. Now he appears set as a third-day pick with potential for moving up.
Vereen officially ran 4.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the combine, the 11th best time among defensive backs. He led all defensive backs with 25 reps on the bench press and was tied for 12th in the 3-cone drill.
"I don’t want to use the word surprised, but I feel like I opened some eyes at the combine and I wanted to show them that it wasn’t a fluke or anything like that," Vereen said of performing Monday at the Pro Day. "Just remove all doubt so to speak."
Vereen plans to go back to California and continue training. He said he’ll probably move in with his brother, New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen. He stays away from draft speculation, purposely avoiding sports programs on TV and asking friends and family to not talk about the draft.
When the fateful weekend comes in May, after all his waiting, Brock said he might not even watch the draft. He’s done his part.
"Now it’s a waiting game," Vereen said. "It’s going to be horrible. It will be fun in the end."
Other workouts: With Hageman and Vereen sitting out the testing portion of Minnesota’s Pro Day, their former teammates got the chance to impress NFL teams.
The workouts included North Dakota State cornerback Marcus Williams, who scored two defensive touchdowns against the Gophers in 2011. Williams, who went to Hopkins High School, set a school record with 21 interceptions at North Dakota State.
Concordia-St. Paul defensive end Zach Moore, who was also part of the combine as he looks at a potential draft spot, did position drills on Monday.
For the Gophers, the highlight was defensive tackle Roland Johnson doing 40 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press Monday, which bested Hageman’s combine performance.
"Roland was always strong on the bench," Hageman said. "We always did testing like last year. He put up 39 on the bench and I put up 29, so I kind of swallowed my pride. He’s strong. I’m not going to take away that. I’ve obviously seen that since Day 1. I knew he was strong."
Minnesota cornerback Jeremy Baltazar ran the 40-yard dash in 4.44 seconds and did 27 reps on the bench press. Linebacker James Manuel ran a 4.53-second 40 and had a 37 inch vertical leap and 10 feet, 6 inch broad jump.
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