Nick Bolton, Mizzou football alumni work out for NFL scouts in pro day
Of the nine professional hopefuls to compete in the Mizzou Pro Day on Monday, six were on coach Eli Drinkwitz's Missouri football roster this past season.
Two others — wide receivers Johnathon Johnson and Jonathan Nance — last played for Missouri in 2019. Joining the eight Tiger alums was Zach Davidson, a former Division II All-American tight end at Central Missouri.
Representatives from 29 of the 32 NFL teams converged at the Devine Pavilion to watch on-field drills and the bench press. They made the walk into the Mizzou Athletics Training Complex for other combine-like exercises.
Many scouts came to Columbia to get an up-close look at former Missouri linebacker Nick Bolton, a projected first- or second-round NFL Draft selection.
Bolton told reporters Monday he's had Zoom meetings with about 75% of league teams.
"I feel like I can play in the NFL and be a high-caliber player," Bolton said. "So it's about proving myself right every day, believing in myself and trying to get myself in the best situation possible."
Bolton's on-field workout was led by Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebackers coach Jerry Olsavsky, who spent several minutes talking with Bolton's family and his agent, Tommy Condon. The Steelers choose at No. 24 and 55 in the draft, set for April 29 to May 1.
Bolton's metrics from pro day included 40-yard dash times of 4.59 and 4.60 seconds, as well as 24 reps on the 225-pound bench press.
Bolton said most NFL teams view him as a middle linebacker, while he played as a weakside linebacker last season at Missouri in the Tigers' 4-2-5 system.
He was the highest-regarded player in action Monday, with some projections having Bolton come off the board in the first 25 picks.
"It would be a great experience to be a first-round pick," Bolton said. "But at the end of the day, once you go and put the logo on your helmet, no one really cares where you're picked. It's about production at that point."
There will be another pro day to come at Missouri before the NFL Draft, as safety Joshuah Bledsoe only took measurements Monday because of a wrist injury suffered at the Senior Bowl.
Bledsoe is scheduled to compete in front of NFL scouts on April 12 in Columbia.
Former Missouri right tackle Larry Borom was the first player to have an individual workout in front of scouts Monday. The 6-foot-6 behemoth showed off some yoga poses.
"It's flexibility," said Borom, who's trimmed down more than 20 pounds since December. "Hip, ankle, knees, just making sure you can bend and be in the right position at all times. It's huge."
The trio of Nance, Johnson and former Missouri wide receiver Damon Hazelton all caught passes from current Tigers graduate assistant Matt Linehan, who started at quarterback for multiple seasons at Idaho.
Perhaps the achievement that gained the most attention Monday was safety Tyree Gillespie's 40-yard dash time of 4.38 seconds. His second rep was 4.40.
Gillespie said the showing was "very expected" thanks to hard work and dedication.
"Day in and day out, just grinding and not taking a second off," Gillespie said of his mindset ahead of the draft. "Eat, sleep and train all the time, and never get complacent."
Former Missouri team captain Larry Rountree not only participated in running back drills Monday, but also took passes as a wide receiver — a move he hopes helps him stand out among his competition.
"I would say I've always been an underdog," Rountree said. "Coming out of high school, I was a two-star. So I've always had a permanent chip on my shoulder. ... Guys weren't talking about me coming out of high school. Nobody knew about me. That's why it's surprising what I did here at Mizzou.
"But still at the end of the day, I can't control how people talk about me. The only thing I can control is how I play. ... No matter what, if you think another guy's better than me, at the end of the day, I know what I can do. So it's more a fact of how I take it."
Contact Eric Blum at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @ByEricBlum on Twitter.
Follow Mizzou football with the Tribune’s Tiger Extra newsletter. Sign up at columbiatribune.com/tigerextra for stories, galleries and podcasts in your inbox every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.