By the time Jamison Crowder had finished his workout at Duke’s pro day, he didn’t know what he had been clocked at in the 40-yard dash.
When reporters asked him what he thought about being clocked unofficially by Duke as running the 40 in 4.39 seconds, Crowder couldn’t contain his excitement.
“I’d be happy, overjoyed,” Crowder said after Duke’s pro day, which saw 30 NFL teams represented. “I just got to keep grinding. But if that was it, I’m definitely satisfied with that.”
The former Duke receiver from Monroe turned in a disappointing 4.56-second 40-yard dash at last month’s NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis and vowed to do better.
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For a receiver who’s 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds, the 40 is everything. His 4.39 will certainly move him back up the draft boards after his performance in Indianapolis.
Crowder believed he could run close to a 4.40, but he had to get his takeoff correct. At the combine he was called back twice on his first run, and that got into his head.
“The takeoff was what was really hurting me,” Crowder said. “I was called back twice on my first go, and that messed with my psyche a little bit, in some way. At the combine, I didn’t have the best 40, but I wanted to make sure I caught everything. I thought I did a real good job of running routes and catching passes. Back here I wanted to run a better 40, and if I ran a 4.39, I’m satisfied with that.”
Crowder had 1,000-plus receiving yards for the Blue Devils in each of his final three seasons in Durham. He’s first in ACC history in career receptions with 283 and third all-time in receiving yards with 3,641.
But Crowder will have to do more than just catch passes in the NFL. He’ll need to show teams he can return punts, and that’s what he did Wednesday. Outside of Duke’s practice facility he caught balls off the JUGS machine—and at one point he caught a ball against his chest while holding two others.
“They’re going to get a versatile player,” said former Duke quarterback Anthony Boone on what an NFL team will get out of Crowder. “They’re going to get someone who works hard and doesn’t talk much. He’s kind of got that Steve Smith, little man mentality. He’s got that tenacity to him, and he’s a fighter. He doesn’t like to be shut down. They can put him anywhere on the field.”
Not yet, Laken: Former Duke guard Laken Tomlinson wanted to show scouts he can play both guard and center, but Boone wanted no interruptions.
During quarterback drills, Boone was receiving snaps from equipment room assistant Cedric Prowell. Urged by his teammates, Tomlinson went onto the field to give Boone, a former Weddington standout, some snaps but he was given an arm bar.
“You catch a rhythm with a center and you don’t want to change in the middle,” Boone said. “I know he can do it, and me and him have worked on it, so I didn’t mean to shut him down like that. But it was one of those moments where I’m good right now, let’s keep it how it is. If it ain’t broken don’t fix it.”
Tomlinson could be drafted as high as the third round. Steelers assistant offensive line coach Shaun Surratt worked Tomlinson out in front of scouts, and Tomlinson performed well though he had to work on his inside hand placement.
Vernon’s second shot: Conner Vernon was at Duke’s pro day Wednesday looking for the right fit.
The 2013 Duke graduate played for Cleveland, Cincinnati and Detroit last year and is now a free agent.
“I’m fully confident in myself that I can play in this league, and it’s a matter of finding the right place and opportunity,” Vernon said. “And that’s why I wanted to come out here again and show the scouts I still got it.”
Vernon ran a 4.41 40, improving on his 4.68 from last year’s combine.
“I put on a little bit of weight, and I wanted to show them that I can carry this weight and run fast,” Vernon said. “That was the knock of me when I came out my draft year was how fast is he. I didn’t run very well at the combine, and foolishly I didn’t run here on pro day. It was me wanting to show that I could run a little bit.”
Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9