AUBURN, Ala. -- At last month’s NFL combine, all eyes were on Auburn’s Greg Robinson and Tre Mason. Robinson blew away scouts by running a 4.92 40-yard dash and bench pressing 225 pounds 32 times. Mason didn’t disappoint either with a time of 4.5 in the 40. The performances were strong enough that both opted not to work out at the school’s pro day on Tuesday.
The attention quickly turned to defensive end Dee Ford, who wasn’t cleared to work out at the combine because of a back procedure he had in 2011.
“They said they looked at some MRIs, and they just saw some things that they didn’t want to chance at the combine,” Ford said Tuesday. “I was definitely surprised. I had no clue that I wouldn’t be able to [work out]. It kind of knocked my training off a little bit because everything is timed when you’re training.”
Ford, known for his confidence and charisma, still made headlines in Indianapolis when he claimed he was better than top defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, comparing the former South Carolina star to a “blind dog in a meat market.” He finally got his chance to back up those comments at Tuesday's pro day.
"People can compare, but the combine is the combine," Ford said. "You’re just showing your athleticism. I think I did great. I think he did great."
The day started in the weight room where the 6-foot-2, 244-pound Ford put up 29 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press. It wasn’t quite the number Robinson had, but it was still eight more reps than Clowney had. He also had a 35½ inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-4 inch long jump before moving to the indoor facility for the 40-yard dash.
With NFL scouts looking on and his future in the balance, Ford ran a 4.59 in his first attempt and improved to a 4.53 with his second attempt.
“I’m very pleased,” Ford said. “I put in a lot of work.”
It’s still too early to tell if Ford’s performance will move him into the first round, but it certainly didn’t hurt his chances. More importantly, the back issue was not a problem, and his knee, which he injured last August, held up just fine.
“It was never an issue,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said regarding Ford’s back. “He hadn’t been limited in any way. He’s done what we’ve asked in the weight room -- working out, conditioning. He looked very good and performed very well.”
The next step for Ford is individual workouts with teams.
Former Auburn cornerback Chris Davis also had a good day, running a 4.51 40 and jumping 40½ inches in the vertical jump. In all, 14 players worked out on AU’s campus including former safety Demetruce McNeal, who was dismissed from the team in August.
“It’s real exciting to watch these guys workout,” Malzahn said. “They performed very well today, got a real good response.”