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CEDAR FALLS — For what might have been the last time, at least a few people got to see Deiondre Hall and his big personality on display in Cedar Falls.
The outgoing senior and star defensive back for the Northern Iowa football team joined about a dozen of his former teammates at UNI's annual Pro Day at the Cedar Valley Sportsplex on Tuesday morning. Hall, Makinton Dorleant and Tim Kilfoy stood out to scouts from 26 NFL teams through the various combine drills.
But, as usual, it was Hall who held court, and who took a step — possibly a couple — up the rung of NFL Draft consideration. He hung around, cheering on his compatriots and injecting life into a (very) early-morning test for the next level. He seemed at ease, and certainly was satisfied.
'I'm proud of myself. I did amazing at the Combine, minus that 40 stat, so I wanted to get back to work and get that 40 time back down; that was huge,' Hall said. 'I did my part. I'm definitely feeling confident on that end.'
At the NFL Draft Combine, Hall placed top 15 among cornerbacks in four of the five drills in which he competed. His 10-foot-7-inch broad jump was fourth best, his 20-yard shuttle of 4.06 seconds was sixth, his 37-inch vertical jump was eighth and his 3-cone drill of 7.07 seconds was 14th.
It was his 40-yard dash of 4.68 seconds that he was most disappointed with, and most focused on coming into Pro Day. Hall got what he wanted, improving on some stopwatches by a full tenth of a second. Scouts had him anywhere from a 4.58 to 4.64, which is improvement he hoped to see.
Through conversations with scouts, he took away a lot from the Combine to use at Pro Day. Apart from getting the 40 time down, Hall said scouts mainly talked about not being so anxious and remaining positive on himself.
One of those, everyone knows certainly won't be a problem. His position has a role in all that, though he's open to anything.
'(The advice I got was) relax, that was the biggest thing,' Hall said. 'It's all about that self-talk. If you can talk yourself up and stay in a positive mind and positive attitude about things, even if it doesn't go quite your way, that holds weight throughout your day.
'I feel more comfortable at corner, but I'm open to playing safety. Corner is definitely where I want to enter.'
Coach Mark Farley was there on Tuesday, and while he wasn't in Hall's ear barking those familiar orders, he was watching closely. The 16th-year head coach always gets a little wispy on Pro Day, wishing he could have the guys on display back for another year. But his pride in them surpasses that, he said.
He's heard from scouts on Hall, Makinton Dorleant, Tim Kilfoy and Brett McMakin, and thought each did what they needed to Tuesday morning. Whether it's Kilfoy and McMakin's grit, Dorleant's speed (hold that thought) or Hall's personality, Farley loved what he saw.
Farley said Hall's draft prospects might've got the bump he was hoping for over the last several weeks.
'They're into the numbers, because that's how they can measure themselves, but I'm more into the drills because that's how coaches can measure,' Farley said. 'I've only heard great things about him. I've heard a lot of third round stuff, some fifth round, and today I heard first round. I just know his position is very valuable, and very hard to find. His length is what stands out about him, and his talent.'
Deiondre Hall's bench. Did 10 reps. March 22, 2016
— Jeremiah Davis (@jeremiahdavis10)
DORLEANT IMPRESSES SCOUTS
Much like last year, when David Johnson brought dozens of scouts to the Sportsplex, Hall's teammates benefited from the extra eyeballs.
The guy who raised the most eyebrows by far was Makinton Dorleant, who elicited some whistles with his 40-yard dash. Scouts on hand had Dorleant anywhere from 4.33 to 4.39 seconds unofficially — which would've ranked between first and fourth at the NFL Combine among corners — for his 40, which is exactly what he told scouts he was going to do in all his conversations leading up.
He benched 225 pounds 16 times, which would've been 11th, and jumped 39 inches on his vertical jump, which would've put him fourth. Other numbers were unavailable, but Dorleant said he met his goals going in.
When drills and tests were done, Dorleant spent at least 20 minutes talking to a handful of scouts. He couldn't contain his smile after a breakout performance.
'I think I left a good impression on all the scouts who came here, and that was my No. 1 goal,' Dorleant said. 'The most important thing was to jump high and run fast, and I did both of those things.
'I can't find the words right now; just happy I was able to do what I did today. I'm hoping it goes a long way for me, because I've been working for this all my life.'
What it means for Dorleant and the NFL Draft remains to be seen. At this point the discussion still lingers on an undrafted free agent deal being most likely, but with what he was able to show at Pro Day, the possibilities of being drafted certainly weren't hurt.
Like Hall, Dorleant said the whole process has been eye-opening, and he's learned a lot along the way.
And like everyone else, he just wants that one chance to prove himself.
'The preparation and all the testosterone that has to go into it (was most interesting),' Dorleant said of the whole process. 'Just preparing for two months and having all the hard work; the downs you have during prep — you may have a down because you're sore — then the ups, you know. This was the day to get to show everybody what I've been doing behind the scenes. It's really a blessing.
'It's a dream, you know? Even if I go undrafted, it's a dream to get a shot. It's one of those things that I've been working and I'll keep working on it.'
Dorleant's bench. Did 16 reps. March 22, 2016
— Jeremiah Davis (@jeremiahdavis10)
KILFOY SOLID, PROUD OF FELLOW DBS
The defensive back group at Northern Iowa was very close during its run stalking sideline to sideline for the Panthers the last few years.
So when they performed so well at Pro Day on Tuesday, the hugs and fist-bumps were plentiful. Tim Kilfoy, who played his career at safety, was very proud of the group and what it said about how they pushed each other in their time together.
'I think everybody came out and did well,' Kilfoy said. 'I think the defensive backs did exceptionally well, which is something you definitely have pride in, being in the secondary. I thought today went very well.
'They liked how I looked, how I carried myself; they said I did well in the defensive drills. It gave me a position to get a chance, and that's all I can ask for at this point.'
Kilfoy had a solid showing himself. He was the best of any player who did the bench press, putting 225 pounds up 22 times. He was also clocked on one scout's time sheet as having an unofficial 40 time of 4.65 seconds on his first run and 4.68 seconds on his second.
He said he felt smooth in the positional drills, and like Hall and Dorleant, was busy talking with scouts when the day was done. An undrafted free agent deal is what Kilfoy expects around Draft time.
'It's good to be over with, just in the essence of we've been working 10, 11 weeks. At Northern Iowa, you work months and months for a four-month season, where we come in here for two hours,' Kilfoy said. 'It's more of a free agency right now. I think (a practice squad spot) is the best thing for me, whether you look at testing or something else. I think with UNI football, you have a lot of good football players. This gave us a chance to be seen.'
MCMAKIN CONTENT WITH COMING OUT EARLY
Linebacker Brett McMakin shocked a lot of people with his decision to become the first UNI player to leave school early and enter the NFL Draft.
He was on display as well for the UNI's Pro Day, and got plenty of questions. Scouts were as curious as anyone why he made his decision, and McMakin said he knew those questions were coming. He did not bench press, but one scout had him, unofficially, between 4.82 and 4.94 in his 40-yard dash and got lots of positive feedback on his positional drills.
McMakin declined an interview at the time of his draft-eligible announcement, opting to focus on the preparation for Tuesday instead. He said Tuesday that paid off.
'The process has been good. It was a little crazy at first, but it's calmed down. It's been good lately,' McMakin said. 'A handful of scouts are interested and want to get to know who I am.
'They're surprised, and want to know why I came out early. It's more for personal reasons.'
The NFL Draft kicks off April 28 with the first round, starting at 7 p.m. Rounds 2 and 3 are April 29, starting at 6 p.m., and Rounds 4-7 are April 30, starting at 11 a.m. ESPN and NFL Network will have television coverage.
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