Sweet rewards: Cavaliers take advantage of Pro Day opportunity
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- When Anthony Johnson met with New Orleans Saints senior defensive assistant Pete Giunta to go over film and the position drills at Virginia Pro Day, the two brokered a sweet deal for Johnson.
"He was big on making sure I was fluid in catching the football, so we're going to Ben & Jerry's since I caught all the passes, his treat," Johnson said after dropping zero balls on Wednesday, "He told me if I caught all the balls we'd go to Ben & Jerry's so looking forward to that."
The ice cream was just one of the gratifying rewards earned on Wednesday with 33 scouts from 29 NFL teams on hand for Pro Day inside the George Welsh Indoor Practice Facility. Johnson was joined by fellow defensive back Darrius Bratton, wide receivers Dontayvion Wicks and Keytaon Thompson, along with former Cavaliers defensive lineman Mandy Alonso and linebacker Elliott Brown returning to grounds hoping to impress.
"Actually when I first arrived back in Charlottesville it kind of first hit me when I was just in here warming up by myself, looking around like it's been a long six years," Thompson said.
Thompson and Bratton were performing in front of NFL scouts for the first time, unlike Johnson and Wicks who have already performed at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine. A year ago Bratton watched as former UVA safety Joey Blount impressed scouts so much, Blount was picked up as an undrafted free agent by the Seattle Seahawks and eventually made the 53-man roster.
"I talked to Joey yesterday, he called me and gave me a little pep talk," Bratton said, "Tim Harris, I talked to him during training, a couple guys that did pretty good, I'm really good friends with some of them and they just gave me encouraging words and told me hints and tips of what to do."
Bratton took full advantage of his opportunity on Wednesday, running a 4.43 in the 40-yard dash and recording an 11'3" on the broad jump, which would have ranked third among all defensive backs and first among safeties at the NFL Combine.
I already knew I was explosive, so I just wanted to come out here and do my best," Bratton said, "Go out on the right note at the University of Virginia."
For Thompson, it was another chance to show talent evaluators the potential he still has to unlock at the wide receiver position after only making the switch full-time two years ago.
"I feel like I'm continuing to get better and as you know I just started playing the position like two years ago really," Thompson said, who also ran a 5.53 in the 40, "I really feel like I'm still getting better and just hope to get another opportunity to play somewhere and go out and continue to improve my skill."
After performing at both the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine, both Wicks and Johnson only participated in a few drills. Wicks improved upon his 40-yard dash time at the NFL Combine, jumping from a 4.62 to a 4.52, and had the chance to run routes for scouts while making a few impressive catches.
"It was a great experience talking to the coaches, letting them know about me, more about me and not just what they've seen in 2022," Wicks said.
In the next few weeks Johnson will head to Miami for their local pro day and go on a few visits with teams, while Wicks will take visits with the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. ESPN currently ranks Wicks as the 12th best receiver in the class and No. 83 overall, while Johnson is the only other player for Virginia in the top-200 players.
"It's something that's very special to me to represent Virginia," Johnson said, "You have some great DBs to follow up behind, you've got Juan Thornhill, Bryce Hall, you've got guys like Anthony Poindexter just UVA legends and people who have represented this university at a high level."
Throughout the event, cheers could be heard along the sides of the field where current and former UVA teammates watched on as Tony Elliott and every member of the coaching staff moved from drill to drill, creating one last home field advantage for the NFL hopefuls.
"Felt like home, able to talk to my teammates after what we've been through," Wicks said, "Putting it all on the line for them, showing them what's in the future for them."