His star on a constant rise after an anonymous path, Michael Hill received a chance to prove himself one final time in the one place where his status and potential are never questioned.
The St. Joseph native’s transcendent senior season at Missouri Western displayed what those around him believed all along, but the all-American running back needed another strong showcase in front of a group that’s been slower to notice.
“It was always in the back of my mind. Every kid wants to play in the NFL. You see it on TV. You see it everywhere, and that’s the sport you’re in. It was a long shot,” said Hill, one of the stars of Friday’s third annual pro day held in
Missouri Western’s Griffon Indoor Sports Complex.
“I’m shocked to be in this position. Hopefully, I took advantage of it.”
Western’s all-time-leading rusher did everything he could to show NFL credentials as a Division II athlete — a nation-best 2,168 rushing yards, 18 touchdowns and a Harlon Hill runner-up honor — but one element’s stuck with him in his late-developing professional pursuit.
Viewed as a bruising back throughout his career, the 5-foot-11, 205-pound Hill needed to show the bevy of NFL scouts — upwards of 20, including a representative from the Kansas City Chiefs — sufficient speed in a pressure
Michael Hill put the finishing touches on his next-level resume with two 40-yard dashes in the 4.6 range according to sources. Official times were not available, but now he will now wait to see if his mega-growth over the past seven months will warrant selection in April’s NFL Draft or a free-agent contract.
“I mean a lot of people just say, ‘Get your 40 down; get your 40 down.’ But I talked to a couple scouts and coaches. Forty’s big but what really matters is if you can play,” said Hill, who trained with David Bass and other NFL hopefuls at Bommarito Performance Systems in Miami. “I’m much faster than what a lot of people think, especially on the field.
“I thought I was gonna have higher emotions, but I was really relaxed and had a good day.”
Hill’s 37½-inch vertical leap would’ve ranked fourth among tailbacks at February’s NFL Scouting Combine, and the Central alum’s 23 bench press repetitions at 225 pounds would’ve placed 10th among the top prospects.
It was easy to spot the Combine alum on the GISC’s FieldTurf.
A two-time all-American defensive end, Bass donned a neon green Under Armour top with his Combine number on the back amid a
collection of about 40 aspiring D-II talents from Western, Northwest Missouri State and other Missouri schools.
Western’s sack leader improved on his combine numbers, completing 21 bench reps (20 in Indianapolis) and leaping 32 inches after vaulting 30½ last month. The 6-4 St. Louis native who projects as either a 4-3 end or a 3-4 outside linebacker made his final pre-draft statement.
Most publications have Bass going off the draft board between the fourth and seventh rounds.
“Since I performed in front of the GMs and actual head coaches, it gave me a sense of confidence,” said Bass, who registered 26 sacks the past two years. “However, I didn’t want to come out here and be the center of attention because everybody put their work in just like me. I just wanted to come out here and have fun.”
Northwest wide receiver Tyler Shaw — the only Bearcats performer to trek to St. Joseph, doing so on the request of attending scouts — likely has a next-level path as well due to his one elite skill.
Shaw repped 225 only five times but showcased his speed — clocking in roughly at 4.4 seconds in the 40 — that’s produced six all-American hurdle honors. The St. Louis native who scored a career-high 12 touchdowns last season joined Tarrell Downing and Lindenwood wideout Andrew Helmick in the final receivers’ group selected to run routes.
The top Bearcats target made solid grabs on short patterns but couldn’t reel in select tosses of the mid-range and deep variety
from former Griffons
quarterback Michael Burton, Western’s running backs coach who was throwing to the
“I definitely felt rusty,” said the 180-pound Shaw, who hadn’t run routes since December. “It’s different movements from football to track. With track, it kind of helped me going vertical, but it didn’t do much for me going from side to side.”
Shaw hopes to procure a visit in the coming weeks in a likely attempt to land a post-draft free-agent deal.
Hill and Bass already have.
Bass will work out for the Carolina Panthers and St. Louis Rams while Hill has a visit booked April 1 in San Diego.
Western coach Jerry Partridge compared Bass’ NFL interest, which has been prevalent since his junior season, with current Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein — who dominated this pro day last year. Hill’s listed as a priority free agent on draft-based websites, but the running back’s take-notice period may be enough to see his name flash during late-round draft coverage.
“I think his stock’s been a steady climb anyway. I pushed him hard throughout the fall anyway to everybody that came through. Some of them bought into what I was saying; some didn’t,” Partridge said. “Then he got into that RayCom (College All-Star Classic) and did really well and more of them bought into it. I’m sure today it was even more so.
“He’ll end up in an NFL camp.”