Roped off onlookers silently watching from afar; the occasional brief and quiet oohs and aahs; the sight of football players dressed in a full regalia of Under Armour.
It must be pro day.
Former members of the Wisconsin football team hosted a multitude of representatives from NFL teams Wednesday at the McClain Center practice facility. Players ran 40-yard dashes, bench pressed 250 pounds and did various position drills all in preparation for the 2012 NFL Draft, which begins April 26.
Plenty of people attended the event — be they friends and family, professional scouts or current members of the Badgers — to watch multiple NFL careers take off.
But the biggest news of the day didn’t involve anyone going pro. UW head coach Bret Bielema told the media Wednesday that quarterback Jon Budmayr experienced a setback regarding his throwing arm, which he initially injured in summer camp last year and kept him sidelined throughout the entire 2011 season.
The setback, Bielema said, is expected to keep the quarterback out of spring camp.
“Jon has encountered some other issues now that have come up that are probably going to restrict him from all of spring ball,” Bielema said.
Budmayr, who will be a redshirt junior next season, is expected to compete for the starting position in 2012. He was Wisconsin’s likely starter a year ago until Russell Wilson transferred to the Badgers.
Bielema also mentioned injuries will limit the participation of redshirt senior Curt Phillips in the spring and incoming freshman Bart Houston in the summer. That leaves redshirt freshman Joel Stave and redshirt sophomore Joe Brennan to man the offense in the spring.
Bielema said Phillips “will be doing more” than what he initially thought in the spring, but that Houston will undergo an operation to remove a cyst from his shoulder.
“Nothing they’re overly concerned about,” Bielema said of Houston.
Toon wins big at pro day
Before and after the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, the biggest question surrounding wide receiver Nick Toon was his speed.
His 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame is a nice fit for the professional level and his knack for avoiding the use of his chest when catching passes impresses scouts. But his 4.54 second 40-yard dash time at the combine was lackluster and seemed to be the biggest thing holding back Toon from an improved draft stock.
Things changed Wednesday, however. After two tries, the receiver said he ran the 40 in 4.4 and then 4.43 seconds — a major improvement from the combine.
“Hopefully nobody has any more questions regarding my speed,” Toon said.
Wilson sharp in passing drills
Along with his downfield targets, quarterback Russell Wilson rarely missed a beat Wednesday.
The 2011 Griese-Brees Big Ten Quarterback of the Year winner threw passes for nearly a half hour and completed 53 of 57 passes with wide receivers and backs running routes across the field.
Scouts tested his footwork and asked him to throw on the run several times.
None of his targets — which included Toon and fullback Bradie Ewing — dropped a pass. His four incomplete passes were all the result of overthrown balls.
Wilson was a marksman from short and midrange, with the majority of his passes hitting his targets at chest height or higher. However, several of Wilson’s deep passes didn’t quite hit his receivers in stride, as they had to slow down in order to make the grab.
The most persistent question following Wilson is his 5-foot-11 stature, but the one-time Heisman Trophy candidate insisted his height makes no difference.
“My height’s not a factor,” Wilson said. “I think I had three balls batted down (at the line of scrimmage) all season. There’s not that much of a difference if I was 6’1” or 5’11” to be honest with you, playing behind the offensive line you play behind.”
Konz stays jolly
Still recovering from his injured ankle sustained back in mid-November, Peter Konz elected only to take snaps at center for Wilson during passing drills. The 6-foot-5, 315-pound center said he’d participate in drills sometime in April, when he’s healthier.
Nevertheless, Konz has had a brief run of bad news. At the combine, the expected late first round pick produced just 18 bench press reps of 225 pounds.
But when the subject was broached, Konz managed a laugh before adding that he hopes to get up to at least 22 reps by April.
“I read in the paper that it was pedestrian and I don’t think the guy who wrote it could do 18 either,” Konz said as he burst into laughter. “Those things kind of stick with you. The important thing for me is that I’ll redo it in April.”
Former Michigan center, and fellow draft prospect, David Molk also made a few ripples in the headlines recently when he told AnnArbor.com he was faster, stronger and smarter than Konz.
But Konz seems to be over it now.
“I was surprised. I just didn’t expect another Big Ten guy to say something like that,” Konz said. “But that’s ok, Taylor Swift said ‘People throw rocks at things that shine.’”
Zeitler’s interviews impress scouts
After the combine, guard Kevin Zeitler’s draft stock appears to be on the rise, and one substantial reason for that is his performance in interviews with various team representatives.
Zeitler, who put up 32 bench press reps at the combine, felt he impressed scouts, and Bielema said he had heard the same.
While in Indianapolis, Zeitler also had a chance to impress Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson.
“I was walking back from a hotel across the street, I was getting stretched out by my trainer, and I saw a guy with really white hair outside the hotel,” Zeitler said. “I was like ‘That has to be Ted Thompson,’ but I wasn’t entirely sure so I just kept walking and [we] kind of like stared each other down.
“And I walk by, he’s like ‘Zeitler, you’re not going to stop and say hi to me?’”
Thompson attended Wisconsin’s pro day along with scouts from the New York Giants, Cincinnati Bengals, Washington Redskins, Tennessee Titans and New Orleans Saints.
Zeitler also said he and tackle Josh Oglesby also ran a few drills with a member of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Henry shows what he’s got
Despite being a first-team all-Big Ten selection last year, safety Aaron Henry didn’t receive an invitation to the combine, nor did he ever get an explanation as to why not.
But Henry didn’t seem too bothered by that Wednesday, who was happy with his 4.53 40-yard dash, 39-and-a-half-inch vertical leap and 16 reps on the bench press.
“When I went to the East-West Shrine Game, I had the scouts I met with, which was like 12 of them, all of them kept saying ‘We’ll see you at the combine,’” Henry said. “My answer to that was ‘Sir, I wasn’t invited to the combine.’ When they heard that, all of them had a shocked look on their face and then they just said, ‘Well, we’ll just see you at Wisconsin.’
“And to come back here on my home turf, for the last time and running in these conditions … I wouldn’t of had it any other way.”