MINNEAPOLIS — Enthusiasm oozed out of Maxx Williams with each drop of sweat, as did the optimism from a completely dry David Cobb.
Williams and Cobb were among 16 former Golden Gophers players and other pro prospects from smaller schools around the region to attend the University of Minnesota's Pro Day Monday. It was a unique experience for the two, as will be their appeals to teams that will go on the clock April 30.
Williams, who declared for the NFL Draft after his redshirt sophomore season, participated in blocking and receiving drills led by Vikings coaches in front of team and league scouts, issuing a challenge to the tech-fabric workout shirt he wore. Williams was invited to the NFL Scouting Combine and impressed the experts, many of whom think he could be the first tight end taken from a group that has quite a bit of a drop-off.
He opted not to participate in timing or testing drills Monday because he was pleased with the numbers he posted* *in Indianapolis. Williams said he wanted to focus on the positional drills to illustrate blocking ability will join his pass-catching ability. The latter prompted some talent evaluators to put a star by his name, despite being younger than most players who make it to a scout's radar.
"It's all a dream right now for me. I'm living my dream, and not many people can say they do that," Williams said. "For me, it's one day at a time: go and do work for the day and then when I finally hear my name called, it will kind of set in, you know what, I've accomplished my goal, and it's time to go to work from there.
Williams said he'd like to be compared to Jason Witten or Kyle Rudolph someday because "they block really well and run really good routes and catch the ball, that kind of complete tight end."
Williams has worked out with Rudolph in California a few times and gathered advice from the Vikings 2011 second-round pick.
"He said have fun with this process, you only get this process one time, the draft only happens once in your life, so go out there, have fun and do what you can and let it work itself out," Williams said.
Cobb, who peaked in 2014 with 1,626 yards and 13 touchdowns on 314 attempts, was able to participate in the Senior Bowl and invited to the combine but suffered a quad injury while running the 40-yard dash. He began rehabbing the next day, but was unable to participate Monday. He wants to have a separate date in April to give scouts more to consider in a position group that Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman has said is as deep as he's seen in a while.
Cobb was able to participate in the broad jump, bench press and vertical jump at the combine before the injury sidelined him from other events as well as positional drills. He wore a sweatshirt and cheered on his former teammates.
"They've been working hard for it, and to see these guys running is good," Cobb said. "It's frustrating at first, but at the same time, it's just a little bump in the road. I'm getting healthy, and I wouldn't want to come out here and hurt anything. The idea is early April. I'll heal up and get back in the process and look forward to coming out again.
"You've got to stay positive," Cobb added. "I've got an injury but I have an opportunity to live my dream and this is the best time of my life. I couldn't ask for anything more. It's a minor setback, but I'm lucky I went to the combine to have a chance to come back for pro day."
Spielman said proximity isn't the only thing he and the Vikings appreciate about the Gophers Pro Day, which he said is one of the tops in the country.
"It's great to come down here to the University of Minnesota," Spielman said. "I know (Gophers Head Coach) Jerry Kill and the outstanding job he does with these kids. They have a lot of kids that I know will get signed as free agents. They have three kids that were there at the combine."
Spielman on Williams: "Great kid. I think everybody knows about his athletic skillset and what he can do in the passing game. He's a young player, shows a lot of speed, plays fast, catches the ball, continues to improve as a run blocker, so he's going to have, I believe, a very productive career in the NFL."
Spielman on Cobb: "He's got very good vision. He runs well between the tackles. He has enough speed once he gets out in the open field. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. He pulled, I think it was his left quad during the combine, so there will be a lot of teams coming through and working him out once he's healthy before the draft."
The following departing Gophers participated: DL Michael Amaefula, DL Cameron Botticelli, WR Derrick Engel, OL Zac Epping, WR Isaac Fruechte, WR Logan Hutton, WR/DB Marcus Jones, RB Donnell Kirkwood, OL/DL Harold Legania, DL Ben Perry, DB Cedric Thompson, DB Derrick Wells, LB Damien Wilson and WR Devon Wright.
Minnesota State University, Mankato also had multiple participants, and North Dakota State RB and Minneapolis native John Crockett had a crew from ESPN tracking his workout.
Spielman said the combination of Gophers and players from other schools helps the evaluation process that tries to be as thorough as possible.
"It's a huge advantage for us to come down here because there's a lot of the smaller school kids or guys that may have gotten overlooked have worked at this pro day," Spielman said. "Adam Thielen was here, and then we bring those guys through, a lot of times at our rookie minicamp after the draft. We were very fortunate. There's a lot of talent in these small schools that may get overlooked, but we have the opportunity to make sure we look at all these kids, and a lot of these kids will potentially be invited to our rookie minicamp."