For senior football players who are looking to continue their athletic careers at the professional level, a Pro Day is their best shot to get exposure and eyes on them from professional teams. While some DII and DIII players do get invited to Pro Days at DI colleges, many still do not. To remedy this, DII and DIII schools host their own Pro Days.
Wednesday, March 11, Whitewater played host to a Pro Day, showcasing seniors from across the WIAC and other conferences. Since the Warhawk program is one of the most prestigious around, it hosted not only former Warhawks, but other schools’ athletes as well.
The Fifth Annual WIAC and Wisconsin Private School Pro Day featured 13 seniors from multiple University of Wisconsin System schools including Eau Claire, La Crosse, Oshkosh and River Falls, along with out of system schools like St. Scholastica and Carroll University. Warhawk running back Justin Prostinak was the lone Whitewater player to attend.
“It’s hard to make it in the NFL,” said UW-W Director of Football Operations and tight ends coach Tim Shields. “What we’re trying to do is give them an opportunity to put their best foot forward. And maybe we don’t open the door directly to the NFL, maybe we’re opening a door to another workout with an NFL team or maybe it’s the CFL or the XFL.”
The drills and activities done at the Pro Day were kept as close to what would be carried out at the NFL Combine as possible. This meant measurements including height, weight, and hand size. Then, coaches put the athletes through drills such as the 40-yard dash, three-cone run, bench press, vertical and broad jump, and position-specific drills.
Shields was the coach running the drills, calling out the order of who was running what, and explaining what the next drill would be. In addition to being the Warhawk offensive line coach, the Pro Day is another way Shields raises the profile of the Warhawk program.
For many of the players attending, the Pro Day is a chance to get some notice from professional scouts who were in attendance and maybe earn a shot on a team at the next level.
On top of having scouts in attendance the host of the Pro Day also sends out videos of the players in attendance to prospective teams and tries to promote the guys they are showcasing.
For the staff helping at the event, the focus was on giving the players attending the best possible shot at continuing their career no matter where they played their college ball.
“We play each other and we’re pretty competitive on the gridiron,” said Mike McHugh, the offensive line coach at Eau Claire and one of the staff members helping out with the workout. “Once it gets outside of that, it’s pro-conference. It’s anything we can do to build the conference name to give the young men in the conference the opportunity.”
For players like Prostinak, the workout is a big step on the path to playing professional sports.
“It’s always a goal for self achievement to get to this point,” said Prostinak, who’s workout was one of the better ones by those watching the Pro Day. “To be able to get here and compete with a lot of guys at a high level, it’s an honor to be a part of that group. It’s humbling.”
The eventual goal of these players is to earn another workout. Prostinak and the others participating have a long journey ahead of them, but high hopes to find another promising open door.