(photo courtesy Houston Texans)
The guy that wore #89 and #5 here during his career (I forget his basketball number) was on hand at Nippert Stadium Wednesday for the 2010 version of the Pro Day at UC. Connor Barwin, who last year had a most successful workout in front of NFL scouts, was back to watch as an interested bystander.
He was joined by some other former Bearcats in the NFL--Haruki Nakamura, Mike Mickens and DeAngelo Smith.. Where a year ago Barwin was tossing off his shirt to run a 40, this time he came pretty much as an "expert" of how to win friends and influence people in "The League".
"I don't know about expert, but a lot of these guys I'm still friends with," said Barwin while watching on a nearly perfect day weather-wise for running shirtless.
After a record-breaking six draftees last year from UC (Barwin, Smith, Huber, Underwood, Mickens and Canfield) there seemed to be more pro scouts and more people scattered in the stands watching festivities that used to be held in front of friends and family in the Armory Fieldhouse.
"You can turn some heads or move up or down in the draft," said Barwin. "In the end, I told these guys, don't make it a bigger thing than it is. Be who you are and do the best you can but it's a very small part that goes into the draft and making a team."
Trying to win over the hearts (and stopwatches) this year were: Craig Carey, Alex Daniels, Mardy Gilyard, Brad Jones, Chris Jurek, Jeff Linkenbach, Ricardo Mathews, Tony Pike, Jacob Ramsey, Marcus Waugh, Aaron Webster, Mike Windt and Curtis Young. In what is pretty much a "cattle call",
Barwin knew what each of the 'Cats were feeling.
"It's really nerve-racking, a lot of these guys didn't go to the combine," explained Barwin. "When you go to the combine and have your Pro Day, you've got two chances. For a lot of these guys, it's one and done. They get to show up for all of these scouts, that's the nervous part of it."
Barwin knows the amount of hard work that's required to be put in. Matter of fact, had some of the Bearcats followed Barwin's training regimen, they may have done better. Connor's not one to brag, but Wednesday's best 40 time was 4.47 by Mardy Gilyard--that's what the bigger Barwin ran last year improving on his combine mark.
But, it takes more than a 40 to get a contract.
"I'll never run a 40 as fast as I can in my life again," said Barwin as we watched lumbering linemen try to break five seconds. "It's a little over-rated. I think some of these scouts--they're not looking at their 40--they're looking at their 10 and their 20. But, the stuff you read about in the media is all 40. Scouts look at a lot of different things. For D-linemen or O-linemen it's the first 10 and 20-yard time."
Certainly, reassuring news for Chris Jurek, Jeff Linkenbach and Curtis Young. However, Alex Daniels and Craig Carey battled hamstring issues and weren't able to record a time. At some point, they'll have to as it's generally recognized as a "telling" stat for some reason.
In Barwin's case, he improved immensely on his 40 time a year ago and showed some "blue collar" ethic in doing almost every drill (Alex Daniels took on that role Wednesday). Despite the fact that a lot of big guys never run a 40-yard sprint in a game, it's still a measuring stick and Barwin made the most of it.
"That's the thing, I was relaxed when I came back here because I knew I already put up a decent time," said Barwin. "I just kind of came out here and had fun with it and ran the best time I could."
Now, Barwin's trying to impart some wisdom on his friend Craig Carey. Carey played some tight end at Elder High School, but was played quarterback his senior year. Mark Dantonio recruited him as a quarterback, but after getting lost in the shuffle, Carey was moved to special teams and defense by Brian Kelly. After two years at linebacker/defensive line, the 6-4, 242-pound Carey's trying to show he can catch a ball or two at tight end.
"Connor's been in for about the past month and a half or so and we've been hitting the weights," said Carey. "He's been doing everything he can to get me ready. He's been a big help. I allowed him to stay with me. He's been kind of annoying (laughter). He does whatever he can to help me. Me and him have been friends forever, he does whatever he can."
Obviously, Carey and Barwin are close. If Carey gets an NFL look, well, stranger things have happened. Rod Monroe was a Bob Huggins power forward until he became a blocking tight end in 1997 and went on to an NFL career. Antonio Gates played against UC at Kent State IN BASKETBALL!
Certainly, if you could rub a little Connor Barwin on a UC player, you would. He was a great player and is a good ambassador of the school. Not many guys can come into Paul Brown Stadium in the uniform of the opposition, sack Carson Palmer and get cheered.
Soon, you could see Connor Barwin Texan jerseys around. Actually, it probably wouldn't be a bad idea if the UC Bookstore ordered some. For now, they're not widespread, as I asked if they were available in Houston.
"Not yet, but hopefully by the end of next year you can." he said. "You can order one if you want. Houston's good, I like it down there. I've been back here for a couple weeks now and I'm starting to miss it a little bit with the nice weather there."
He'll always be back, but UC will always miss Connor Barwin on the field because of the effort and determination he played with.
For that matter, if you could pin him down, Mick Cronin probably misses Connor Barwin too.