Asked if the pressure of having a potential NFL career rest on a single day’s work weighed in the back of his mind, B.J. Coleman smiled slyly.
“Oh, it was there,” said Chattanooga’s all-time leader in touchdown passes.
Having missed out on performing at February’s NFL combine due to a fractured pinky on his throwing hand, Coleman took to the field Monday at Finley Stadium. A gathered crowd of 16 NFL scouts and two coaches were on-hand for UTC Pro Day. Stop watches were running. Notes were being taken. Judgements were being made.
Though Coleman was working out alongside former teammates Joel Bradford and Chris Lewis-Harris, among others, everyone knew who the scouts were there to see.
“A burden has definitely been lifted,” said the former McCallie School standout and one-time Tennessee Volunteer. “It feels good to be out here and let them see me throw and see the ball come out of my hand. I think that they saw what they wanted to see.”
In an array of three-, five- and seven-step drops in the pocket, Coleman zipped passes all over the field. He moved in and out of the pocket and gunned throws to the flats, underneath, downfield and to both sidelines.
All eyes were on the hand.
“No soreness at all,” Coleman reported afterward. “The hand felt good. That was what I was worried about when I started throwing on the 19th of March, I only had about two weeks to prepare and, man, when I was throwing 30 or 40 balls, that thing got tired quick and started throbbing.”
Coleman is currently rated as the ninth-best quarterback in the draft by both CBS Sports and nfldraftscout.com. Many scouts were impressed with his stellar showing at January’s East-West Shrine Game when he completed 10-of-15 passes for 170 yards and a touchdown.
At the moment, Coleman is projected as a fifth- or sixth-round pick in numerous mock drafts. The goal Monday was to solidify his positioning on the NFL’s large radar.
“I’ve talked to several teams and I appreciate those guys and the interest I’m getting there,” said Coleman, who suffered through an injury plagued senior year at UTC after throwing for 2,996 yards, 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions as a junior. “I’m not sure exactly what’s going to happen. I don’t think anyone does.”
Amid attention paid to Coleman, Bradford and Lewis-Harris, along with Chattanooga-area natives Wesley Idlette (Maryville College) and Tim Benford (Tennessee Tech), and Dallas Williams from Western Michigan, jockeyed for the scouts’ attention.
Despite adding muscle to his 6-foot, 165-pound frame, Bradford was clocked at 4.43 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
“He was flying,” said Cleveland Browns safety Buster Skrine, a former UTC standout in attendance.
Bradford racked up 1,944 career receiving yards and 13 touchdowns with the Mocs, but his slight frame make him an NFL longshot. He wrestled with butterflies all morning before taking the field with the scouts watching. According to Coleman, the two went for breakfast in the morning and Bradford at only two bites.
“He was feeling the nerves,” Coleman joked.
Once on the field, it didn’t help that Bradford was first to partake in every drill, which were carried out in alphabetical order.
“I was ready to go out and set the bar high, but sometimes when I’d get down in the stance and get ready to go, I’d still be shaking and thinking about it,” said Bradford, who tossed up 10 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press. “That was a fight within itself.”
Having played pitch and catch for three years together at UTC and as prep stars at McCallie, Coleman and Bradford looked in sync. Coleman was quick to say how important that comfort level was at Pro Day.
“I felt some finesse and I felt smooth,” he said. “The ball was dropping into pockets where it needed to.”
The NFL draft will kickoff with the first round unfolding on Thurs., April 26. The second and third rounds are April 27, while rounds four through seven will play out on April 28.
“Now [I] sit back and listen,” Coleman said. “[I] could have some of those private interviews whether it be here or at [NFL team facilities] where they fly [me] in to work out again. That’s all kind of open. ... We’ll see what happens.”
Updated 8:55 a.m. to correct a misspelling.