On an overcast and rainy day, a lot of work was put in to strive towards a bright future.
Thursday afternoon was Pro Day for the Georgia Southern football team, allowing 14 former Eagles the chance to workout in front of professional scouts ahead of this spring's NFL draft.
And while the order of the day was all about taking the next step, the familial atmosphere of the program shone through.
“It was great to be out here one more time with a lot of the guys,” former quarterback Kevin Ellison said. “It means a lot to be back on this field, especially when you're trying to prove yourself to get to the next level. It helps that the other guys out here and the guys who are still playing (for Georgia Southern) give so much support.”
Ellison may have had the most unique Pro Day in that he was auditioning for a position he has never played. After commanding the Eagle offense as a quarterback for four seasons, Ellison is making the switch to receiver in order to chase a possible professional career.
“I've talked to some teams from the Canadian league who are interested in what I can do,” Ellison said. “I got great support and advice from guys in our program and I just want to prove myself and see what I can do.”
While Ellison was showing off an entirely new skill-set, another Eagle was doing his best to silence any critics.
Running back Matt Breida had breakout seasons in 2014 and 2015, but struggled to find the same spark in his senior season last fall. A lackluster senior season may well have cost Breida a chance to show his stuff at the NFL combine earlier this month.
“I always wanted to go to the combine,” Breida said. “I'm not mad at them. Everything happens for a reason and God has a plan, but I definitely had a chip on my shoulder today.”
That chip showed itself in a very impressive fashion.
Sporting an extra 10 pounds on his 2016 season weight, Breida ripped off a 4.38-second 40-yard dash, recorded a 42-inch vertical leap, cleared 11-feet, 2-inches in the broad jump and put up 225 pounds 23 times in the bench press. Had Breida been at the NFL combine, his vertical and broad jumps would have ranked first among all other running backs at the event, with top-3 finishes in his 40 time and bench press.
“I've wanted this since I was six years old,” Breida said. “It's what I've always told my parents. This is my dream and I feel like, today, I gave myself a better opportunity to make it.”
Eagle linebacker Ironhead Gallon also had a banner day.
An All-Sun Belt selection in each of his last two seasons, Gallon was among Thursday's top performers in the 40-yard dash, the broad jump and the vertical leap. There is speculation that a spot in the NFL would require Gallon to move from linebacker to safety, but he has shown enough versatility in his years at Georgia Southern to satisfy any scouts wondering if he can change his mindset or playing style to fit a new position.
The big test for all involved in Thursday's proceedings was to impress any scout in attendance, but everyone got a passing grade from their former coach.
“I'm proud of everyone out here today,” GS coach Tyson Summers said. “Everyone came out here today with goals and just about everyone met or exceeded those goals.
“These guys have been trickling in and out for weeks. They've been training here and a lot of them are also still in class, finishing up their degrees. I'm proud of the effort and commitment they have shown to get to the great performances we saw today.”
Thursday's Pro Day participants will spend the next few weeks fielding calls from prospective teams and traveling to private workouts ahead of the NFL draft, to be held April 27-29 in Philadelphia.
As for the current Eagles, the weekend is just getting started. Georgia Southern will hold its annual Blue-White game Saturday afternoon. Following that, the Eagles will hold two more weeks of spring practice before settling into their summer workout schedule in preparation for the 2017 season that is set to begin Sept. 2 at Auburn.