Wilson, Christensen headline impressive 2021 BYU Pro Day performances
PROVO, Utah – Star quarterback Zach Wilson and All-America offensive lineman Brady Christensen highlighted a number of exceptional performances from the 20 former BYU football players that participated in the Cougars’ NFL Pro Day on Friday at the Indoor Practice Facility.
The participants met with NFL team representatives, performed various combine tests and displayed position-specific skills throughout the day in front of 61 NFL personnel from 31 of the 32 NFL teams. The NFL Network and BYUtv both provided live coverage of the 2021 Pro Day while ESPN had live reporting from the event throughout the day.
Along with Christensen and Wilson, former Cougar offensive players that participated in Pro Day included wide receiver Dax Milne, tight end Matt Bushman and offensive linemen Chandon Herring and Tristen Hoge. Former defensive players included defensive backs Zayne Anderson, Kavika Fonua, Troy Warner and Chris Wilcox. Former defensive linemen Zac Dawe, Bracken El-Backri and Khyiris Tonga participated while Isaiah Kaufusi was the only linebacker to take part in the BYU Pro Day.
Six former players, who did not get to participate in Pro Day after last year’s event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, also participated in this year’s tests and drills. This group included wide receivers Aleva Hifo, Micah Simon and Batchlor Johnson IV, and defensive backs Isaiah Armstrong, Austin Lee and Beau Tanner.
Wilson, who only participated in measurements and the position drill portion of the Pro Day, went through a script of roughly 60 different passes. His receivers included former Cougar pass catchers Bushman, Hifo, Milne and Simon. Wilson’s script included a variety of short and deep throws while also showcasing his ability to throw on the run.
The group began the workouts with official measurements and went on to the bench press before transitioning to the vertical and broad jumps. The workouts then moved to the 40-yard dash, 3-cone drill, the 20-yard shuttle run and ended with various position drills.
Each scout was responsible for recording their own times for the 40-yard dash, 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle so listed times for those events are unofficial.
Tonga topped all participants in the bench press with 35 reps, tying him for the fourth-most reps ever in the bench press by a BYU player at an NFL Combine or Pro Day. When compared to the 2020 NFL Combine results, 35 reps would have been the third-most amongst all participants. Dawe and Christensen also reached 30 reps in the bench press, recording 33 and 30 reps, respectively.
Fonua and Hifo both recorded 39.5-inch leaps to highlight the vertical jump while Wilcox had the third-highest jump of the day with a vertical of 37.5 inches. Christensen had the highest jump out of all the linemen with a 34-inch vertical, which would have been tied for the third-best mark out of all offensive linemen at the 2020 NFL Combine.
In the broad jump, Christensen recorded what would be the second-best mark by an offensive tackle in NFL Combine history with a leap of 10 feet 4 inches (124 inches). Hifo continued to showcase his athletic ability jumping 10 feet 7 inches (127 inches), the best mark amongst all participants. Wilcox (126 inches), Fonua (125 inches), Simon (125 inches) and Tanner also leapt further than 10 feet.
Wilcox clocked a 4.31 in the 40-yard dash to claim the fastest time of the day while Simon also ran a sub-4.40 with a time of 4.34. Christensen had the best performance among all linemen with a 4.89, which would have been the second-fastest time in last year’s combine.
Christensen rounded out his testing with a 4.46 in the 20-yard shuttle and a 7.33 in the 3-cone drill. His shuttle time would have been the fastest at the 2020 NFL Combine among all offensive linemen and his 3-cone time would have been the second-fastest.
After all of the athletic testing, participants worked out performing specific position-related drills for scouts in their respective position groups.
The NFL Draft will be held Thursday-Saturday, April 29-May 1, across iconic downtown locations in Cleveland, Ohio.
Some post-event comments from several participants and NFL Network Analyst Daniel Jeremiah are included below.
Quarterback Zach Wilson
On experiencing Pro Day with his teammates
“I’m so happy for these guys. They're all living out their dreams and you can definitely tell they all put in the work. We got some crazy numbers today and had guys do some awesome, awesome things that I know scouts are going to be all over. It's great to be out here with them one last time, it’s kind of a flashback of all those memories when you pull up to BYU. I’m super proud of those guys and everything that they've worked for, you know they made me want to go out there and run my 40.”
On the transition to be an NFL quarterback
“I just think that the game of football is changing, especially the quarterback. You want someone that's athletic and mobile in the pocket and can make all the throws but also extend and make things from different angles and different things like that, so it was good to work some of that today.”
Offensive Lineman Brady Christensen
On the draft process this year
“With COVID, it's been kind of crazy with no actual NFL combine. Everything's been over zoom as far as interviews go, and that's been a little different. But, at the same time, you've just got to adapt and still put your best foot forward on those interviews and so that's been a little different. But yeah, it's been good so far. I'm really, really enjoying the process. I get to do football as a full-time job right now, so I'm loving every minute of it.”
On experiencing Pro Day with teammates from last year’s team
“Yeah, I was loving them up and having a good time. Then seeing them get good numbers, that's what it's all about. It's important day but you have to enjoy the process, too. I was just doing my best to smile and laugh and have a good time, pump each other up, that's what I wanted to do today.”
Wide Receiver Dax Milne
On the pressure of participating in the 2021 Pro Day
“It’s a fun time but it's just so different because it was so quiet in here. Usually, when we're performing like that, you know we've got fans or your teammates cheering us on and whatnot. It's definitely a good opportunity to show that you can handle the pressure like that and execute.”
On his evaluation of himself
“I think what will set me apart, coming into any team in the league is, is my ability to pick up the playbook and be a fast learner. I did a good job with that coming into BYU. Another physical thing that I think will set me apart is just my ability to get separation and finish the play, having reliability and good hands. I think that's what it's all about as a receiver in the league.
Tight End Matt Bushman
On the impact of Pro Day after missing last season due to injury
“I think my film just speaks for itself and will help me out. But I think the biggest question was, ‘what is he going to do today?’ How am I going to look when I'm running routes or if I'm going to do position drills so I think being able to go out there and run routes and run and go through the script with Zach and the other receivers was super beneficial for me just to say ‘Hey, I'm, I'm not that far off and I'm basically back,’ so that was super helpful."
On his strengths and weaknesses ahead of the NFL Draft
“I'd say my biggest strength is my catching ability. I think I'm a natural receiving tight end and have some of the best hands in this class. Showing that my Achilles is better, that's one thing. Just proving that I'm back and good to go. I'd say, once I can prove that my Achilles is healthy, I'll be good to go.”
Defensive Lineman Khyiris Tonga
On his ability to transition to the NFL
“I feel good. I'm confident in my play. I feel like I can definitely play out of the one and the three, if they need me to. I feel confident that I can definitely be a pass rusher and not just a run stopper. So that's definitely something I would love to work on and, hopefully by time I'm in the league, I have the opportunity I can showcase that skill.
On the benefit of going up against BYU’s talented offensive linemen at practice
“We've seen it throughout the season this past year, the dominance of our O-line and what they show against every team they play against. So, it's been good that we're able to go against them every single day and definitely know what we can do as a as a D-line and be confident in our play against other old linemen.”
NFL Network Analyst Jeremiah Daniel
On the BYU Pro Day
“I think the NFL knows when you get a BYU kid, they’re getting a really tough kid. The best thing that can happen for a program, in my opinion, is when you have a marquee quarterback, because it just gives you so much exposure.”
On quarterback Zach Wilson
“When you go left and throw it all the way back to the right as a right-handed quarterback, that’s a whole other level of difficulty. To have that type of horsepower and athleticism to be able to pull that off, it’s pretty unique.”
On offensive lineman Brady Christensen
“It will probably get lost because of all the stuff that happened today, but (Brady Christensen’s) broad jump was three inches better than anything at the Combine from an offensive lineman going back to 2003.”