While nearly everything else in the national sports landscape was shut down on Friday morning, a handful of graduating Georgia Southern football players were back on the field at Paulson Stadium in hopes of impressing professional coaches and scouts at the school’s annual Pro Day.
Standout cornerback Kindle Vildor and kicker Tyler Bass have been in pro tryout mode for over a month as both participated in the Senior Bowl and the NFL combine. Both were back in Statesboro to show off their skills one more time alongside teammates who are also hoping to realize professional dreams.
“It’s a brotherhood,” Vildor said. “We’re all working for the same thing and it’s great to be back with my brothers to support each other.”
The biggest supporters of the day were the coaches on the Georgia Southern staff. Mixed in between the scouts, stopwatches and clipboards were the same familiar faces that guided the Eagles’ outgoing seniors to this point.
Georgia Southern head coach Chad Lunsford leaned heavily on all of the players on showcase Friday as all of them played a huge role in reversing the team’s fortunes from a disastrous 2017 into a squad that has been to consecutive bowl games.
“It’s not like we just cut guys loose after their last game,” Lunsford said. “They keep their lockers. We keep letting them into the weight room. They continue to have access to facilities and hang out with the younger guys. We always want them to know that they’re still part of the family.”
Players took part in the same weightlifting and agility drills that are present at the combine before performing in field drills that differed by position.
While some cone and agility drills were hard to distinguish from one another, Bass had a very straightforward showing in his skill-specific portion of the day.
Facing swirling winds, Bass continually split the uprights, highlighting his morning by hitting from 62 yards out.
“I was feeling really good,” Bass siad. “I was kicking with NFL balls and they really go when you hit them right.”
Both Bass and Vildor are considered to be shoe-ins to make NFL camps this summer, with Vildor’s projected draft round steadily rising. Others will compete for undrafted free agent invites to camps, which have been the road taken by many successful former Eagles.
That could easily be the foot in the door needed for players like Jay Bowdry, who was a key cog in the GS defense throughout his career and will be looking to find a fit at the next level.
“I just wanted to show everyone what I’m made of,” Bowdry said. “I was trying to show off some skills at (defensive back) when I haven’t really been in that role. I’ve been training hard and I hope I showed them something.”
The NFL draft is scheduled for April 23-25 in Las Vegas.
Rest of spring practice schedule unknown
The last few days have been hectic - to say the least - in the sports world due to the growing coronavirus pandemic.
All Georgia Southern spring sports were effectively shuttered for the season on Thursday when the NCAA canceled all championships and the Sun Belt Conference announced that all league games on the spring schedule were canceled.
That still left out football spring practices, which were presumably left to use their own discretion on continuing activities. Georgia Southern held a practice and a brief scrimmage Thursday night and hosted Friday's Pro Day, but word has since come in that major conferences are calling off spring camps and all Pro Days scheduled for future dates are off.
All GS Football team activities are halted for the next two weeks in conjunction with the closure of the university. Following that break, the team is expected to follow any additional restrictions that my be levvied by the Sun Belt.