It’s fair to say Darwin Thompson was extra motivated to showcase his skills in front of scouts after not receiving an invitation to the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine, and he proved it Wednesday.
The former Aggie running back shined at Utah State’s annual Pro Day, which was held at two locations — the ICON Sports Performance Center and the Stan Laub Indoor Training Center. A few months ago, Thompson elected to forego his final season of collegiate eligibility and declare for the 2019 NFL Draft.
“After a successful day today, I don’t feel like I dropped past the fourth (round of the draft),” Thompson said. “... I’ve never looked back since (making my decision). I mean, once I made that decision I knew I had to keep going. There was no going back. It was kind of like jumping off a cliff. You can’t climb back up after you’ve jumped.”
Thompson was one of 17 former Aggies who participated in various tests and drills in front of a large contingent of NFL scouts. Scouts from 28 NFL teams were in attendance.
Based on Wednesday’s results, Thompson stacked up very favorably against the running backs who were invited to the NFL combine. For starters, only one tailback at the combine recorded more reps at 225 pounds in the bench press than the second-team all-Mountain West selection’s 28. Only two other former Aggies finished with at least 20 reps Wednesday in defensive end Adewale Adeoye (22) and tailback Justen Hervey (20).
Additionally, Thompson showed off his explosive leaping ability by soaring 39 inches in the vertical jump and 10 feet, 6 inches in the broad jump. Those marks would have ranked the 5-foot-8, 198-pounder third and fifth, respectively, among running backs at the combine.
The native of Jenks, Oklahoma, also posted one of the better 40-yard-dash times as he completed the race in 4.50 seconds. All times and marks at Pro Day are unofficial.
“They’ve really liked me,” Thompson said when asked about the feedback he’s received from scouts. “They really like the way I run and I can do a lot of things. They feel like I’ve molded myself into that every down back. In the NFL right now, a lot of teams see me as a third down back, but I run much bigger than I actually am.”
In addition to Thompson, Hervey and Adeoye, other former Aggies who participated in Pro Day were Eltoro Allen (RB), Roman Andrus (offensive lineman), Rob Castaneda (OL), Gaje Ferguson (safety), Quin Ficklin (OL), Jalen Greene (wide receiver), Dax Raymond (tight end), Jontrell Rocquemore (safety), Suli Tamaivena (linebacker), Ron’quavion Tarver (WR), Sean Taylor (OL), Aaren Vaughns (WR), Aaron Wade (safety) and Emerson Woods (TE).
All of the skill position players caught passes from former Utah quarterback Troy Williams during positional drills.
Like Thompson, Rocquemore turned a lot of heads with his performances Wednesday. The McKinney, Texas, native was the only athlete who bested Thompson in the vertical jump with his mark of 39.5 inches.
Rocquemore was only one inch behind leaders Thompson and Hervey with his leap of 10-5 in the broad jump. The second-time all-conference honoree was hoping for a better clocking in the 40 than his 4.57, but strongly suggested he has superb agility and hands in the positional drills.
“After looking at the numbers ... of course I want to do a couple of things (better), run a different 40 (time), do some more agility stuff, but overall I think I couldn’t have asked for a better day,” he said. “I jumped really good, my bench was solid. My position drills kind of made up for a lot of the running (times).”
Rocquemore sparkled in his hybrid outside linebacker/safety spot this past season, and said scouts are looking at him as more of a safety — the position he grew up playing.
“From what I’ve heard, it’s kind of more, ‘show them that you can play safety until told otherwise,’” Rocquemore said.
Rocquemore’s primary goal Wednesday was to display his versatility, and he is confident he fulfilled that objective.
“I moved a lot better than they thought (I would), which that was kind of my goal was to come out here and show them that I’m not just an outside linebacker, I can be whatever you need me to be,” he said. “I can play safety, I can play the dime, the nickel.”
Rocquemore and Thompson — Thompson especially — both have legitimate chances of getting picked in the upcoming NFL Draft, which will take place April 25-27. One former Aggie who is expected to be drafted is Raymond, who like Thompson decided to skip his final season of eligibility.
Raymond, who competed in the combine as well as the Senior Bowl, was happy with how things went Wednesday.
“It was awesome,” Raymond said. “I feel like there was a ton of energy. You know, it’s good seeing all of the guys back here and seeing how hard they’ve worked, and I feel like everyone gave it their all. ... I feel like I showed that I can be a consistent pass catcher, I showed that I can block as well. Yeah, I’ve only heard positive things, so I feel like it went really well.”
The former Timpview High star had arguably his best performances in the 40 (4.68) and vertical jump (33 inches), and attributed that to dropping eight or nine pounds since participating in the combine.
“This is more of a comfortable playing weight for me,” Raymond said. “At the combine, I kind of bulked up, so I jumped a little higher and farther and ran faster today just being a little bit lighter, and I think some scouts really liked that.”
Other noteworthy performances were turned in by Vaughns in the 40 (4.43), Wade in the 40 (4.47) and Allen in the vertical jump (37 inches). Hervey fared very well with his time of 4.46 in the 40, 38-inch vertical jump and his aforementioned efforts in the bench press and broad jump.
In addition to competing in a series of tests and drills, the athletes all had their height, weight and wing span measured.
Former USU great Robert Turbin was in attendance at Pro Day. The tailback, who has played in the NFL every season since 2012, is currently a free agent.