News And Notes From Penn State’s Pro Day

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NFL personnel flocked to Holuba Hall Thursday to evaluate Penn State’s next crop of draft-eligible prospects.

Both current players and notable alums stopped by Pro Day to support the 11 Nittany Lions who were going through workouts and interviews. Saquon Barkley could be seen chatting with former teammate Geno Lewis, while Christian Hackenberg and Anthony Zettel watched closely as Garrett Sickels improved on his NFL Combine showing from a few weeks ago.

Speaking of Sickels, the Red Bank, N.J., native turned in a solid showing in front of scouts, posting better numbers and a leaner frame than what we saw in Lucas Oil Stadium. The 6-foot-4 defensive end checked in nine pounds lighter at 252, and it showed with a faster 40 time of 4.81 seconds.

He also improved his vertical jump by 5 inches (28 to 33) and his broad jump by eight inches (8’9″ to 9’5″), which should certainly help his case come late April. Fellow Wild Dog Evan Schwan ran an excellent 4.69 40 at 6-foot-5, 261 pounds and showed scouts he has the ability to drop back in coverage in a 3-4 scheme, too.

For a comprehensive look at how each Nittany Lion tested, check out the football program’s official Pro Day page right here.

Sickels said he and Hackenberg had the chance to spend some quality time together with old teammates earlier in the week.

“We drove up together. It was good seeing him again, especially after living with him for three years. We played [Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands] on headsets and set up a projector in the same room. We nerded out the first night we were here,” he said with a laugh.

Fresh off a stellar week in Indianapolis, Chris Godwin obviously elected to forgo the stopwatch scrutiny this time around, instead focusing solely on positional drills. The junior receiver planned to have former Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel throw to him, but for one reason or another a New England representative ended up doing the honors.

Godwin looked crisp as can be, though, breezing through an extensive route tree with every eye in the building directed squarely on him. While addressing the media afterward, Godwin said he already has private workouts scheduled with the Eagles and Steelers.

“Myself and coach Gattis, we sat down and just talked about the types of routes that scouts would wanna see,” Godwin said. “Just trying to show them that I can be really well rounded, whether it’s the short, intermediate, or deep routes, things that I feel like would make me stand out among the rest of the receivers.”

Brian Gaia flashed his freakish strength over at Lasch before going through drills, finishing with 32 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press — a dozen more than any of his teammates. “I left a couple on the board, just got a little off rhythm at the end, but I did about what I expected,” he said.

Gaia added that some franchises see him as a potential fullback at the next level if he doesn’t get a shot at center, the position where he started all 14 games last season. He’s no stranger to change, having switched from defensive tackle to offensive guard and eventually center during his college career. “It’s kinda like here — defense, offense, whatever it takes to get on the field.”

Malik Golden felt confident in his performance, which featured a 4.5 40 and 10’5″ broad jump. He looked fluid flipping his hips and changing directions throughout the morning, something he worked on while training with Gaia and Schwan at the same facility down in Tampa.

“I’m faster with shoulder pads and a helmet on,” Golden said. “They want safeties that can run now and can cover tight ends, receivers, so I think safety’s a big position now. I think what I did in position drills showed that I’m pretty capable of doing that at the next level.”

Nyeem Wartman-White, who’s about five months into rehabbing his third major knee injury, said he was happy with his performance during light position drills and on the bench press (17 reps). Michael Mauti knows all about persevering through adversity, so the New Orleans Saint was sure to reach out with some encouragement.

“He just gave me the advice that it doesn’t matter where you get picked up or how you get picked up. It’s about what you do when you get there,” Wartman-White said. “For me to not try to chase my dream, that would just be ridiculous of me.”

Wartman-White also reflected on the emotions that were coursing through him in Indianapolis as confetti rained down on the Nittany Lions. “I didn’t care about being hurt at that moment. I was a Big Ten Champion. I came to Penn State to be a Big Ten Champion and that’s what happened.”

Brandon Bell, whose 4.68 40 would have placed him 12th among all linebackers at the Combine, said he was back at 100 percent after sustaining an elbow injury on his near-pick six in the Rose Bowl. Bell and his teammates knew their months of hard work had prepared them for success on yet another huge stage.

“Us guys were talking, it was kinda like a big game looming over our heads for eight weeks. I think we won today,” Bell said of Thursday’s workouts.

Photo By: Alex Bauer
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Ethan Kasales

Ethan Kasales is a townie who grew up in Lemont, a few minutes from campus. He's majoring in Journalism and has a passion for Spanish. Ethan's a lifelong Penn State football fan and loves talking all types of sports with whoever will listen. In the winter, when it's way too cold in Happy Valley to play golf, he teaches snowboarding at Tussey Mountain. If you ever want to learn how to ride, he'd love to teach you. Ethan enjoys whistling along to everything from Bruce Springsteen to Action Bronson. You can follow him @easyEKasales or email [email protected]

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