UMass pro day gives NFL scouts another look at Stephane Milhim
AP FILE PHOTO University of Massachusetts offensive linesman Stephane Milhim, right, participated in UMass pro day Monday. Purchase photo reprints »
FOXBOROUGH — Last year it was offensive lineman Josh Samuda who used a performance at University of Massachusetts pro day to earn a spot in Miami Dolphins camp.
Before him, Jeremy Horne, Jeromy Miles, James Ihedigbo and of course Victor Cruz all turned strong showings at UMass pro days into NFL training camp invites and eventually contracts.
On Monday, nine Minutemen hoped to follow in their footsteps as they worked out for 13 NFL teams at the annual event.
UMass’ relationship with the New England Patriots and Gillette Stadium allowed pro day to be held in the Patriots’ indoor practice bubble instead of at McGuirk Stadium. The indoor facility eliminated weather as a factor, allowing many players to go shirtless in an attempt to show off the physiques they’d been working on with personal strength coaches since the end of the season.
Of the participating Minutemen, offensive lineman Stephane Milhim appears to have the best chance to get drafted. He participated in the NFL’s scouting combine last month and came to pro day hoping to build on the solid impressions he made there.
“You always want to do a little bit better, which I did, so I was really happy today,” said Milhim, who improved in the standing broad jump, the vertical jump, the 40-yard dash and the shuttle run.
“It’s been a long process. Every day I’ve been working hard doing my workouts getting ready for the big day I guess,” said the Florida native, whom NFLDraftScout.com had ranked as the 37th-ranked offensive tackle. “I believe in myself. I’ve worked very hard. I’ve come a long way. I thank God every day that I’m here, but I think my hard work has paid off.”
Milhim said he wasn’t even sure if he’d watch the draft, which begins April 25.
“I’m going to be sitting at my house. I probably won’t even watch it. I’ll just be at my house with my phone on hoping to get a call from somebody,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter. Everyone hopes to get drafted. If it doesn’t happen it wasn’t meant to happen. As long as I can get an opportunity (to go to somebody’s camp), that’s all I can ask for.”
Safety Darren Thellen has been working out in Florida since completing his finance degree in December.
“I’m just hoping to get an opportunity to play football at the next level, however it happens it happens,” Thellen said. “If I get signed as a free agent I’ll be happy. If I get drafted I’ll be happy. Just getting an opportunity means a lot to me.”
Wide receiver Alan Williams, DL Hafis Williams, OL Nick Speller, OL Quinton Sales, LB Perry McIntyre, RB Michael Cox, WR Deion Walker also participated.
LIVING INSPIRATION — Mixed in among the scouts, agents, media, players and coaches at pro day was Miles, who just completed his third season for the Cincinnati Bengals. During his senior year he was an on-field mentor and close friend of Thellen. Miles went undrafted, but went from practice squad player to specials teams to regular contributor at safety. He still lives in Massachusetts during the offeseason and showed up to offer support.
“It means a lot. He’s like my big brother, my mentor,” Thellen said. “That gave me a lot of hype to do better. I really appreciate him coming out and showing support. He gave me advice telling me to stay calm and be as loose as I can. We’ve worked out together and he gives me some hints on what to expect from drills at the next level. It helps a lot.”
Miles said his advice was simple.
“Obviously go out and try your hardest, but don’t try to do too much,” he said. “A lot of guys think there’s a lot of pressure on them and they try to do something that’s out of their character and get a little too tight. It’s a long process. This is just one day. Once you get to camp, hopefully you get a chance to show what you can do.”
NFL AS A RECRUITING TOOL — UMass coach Charley Molnar and his staff were at pro day. He said having Minutemen make the NFL is big for the program.
“It’s a piece of the puzzle. It’s not the most important thing in recruiting. But when you have one of your players go on to the highest level of football, you can point to him and tell a recruit ‘You can reach all of your dreams,’” Molnar said. “Every young man that puts on a helmet and shoulder pads dreams of playing in the NFL. We want to show them that they can reach their dreams playing football at the University of Massachusetts.”
ALUMNI PARTICIPATION AT SPRING GAME UP IN THE AIR — Molnar said he wasn’t sure if the team’s April 20 spring game would be a repeat of last year’s game against alumni.
“I want to see how much interest there is. I have a number of alumni players in my mind that I want to have signed up by such and such a date. If I hit that I’ll have the alumni game,” he said. “If not it’ll be a regular practice game, offense vs. defense.”
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at @GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.