Montana pro day

Former Griz quarterback Jordan Johnson throws to wide receiver Jamaal Anderson during Montana's pro day at Washington-Grizzly Stadium on Monday.

AJ Mazzolini, Missoulian

For a lucky few future professionals, college football pro days are an opportunity to improve on numbers posted at the NFL Scouting Combine -- a second chance.

For most, there's only one shot.

"There is a little pressure," Grizzly Tonga Takai said. "But I try to block out everyone, try not to look at the scouts."

Takai was one of nine college athletes, seven of them Griz or former Grizzlies, to work out for NFL and CFL scouts at the University of Montana on Monday at UM's annual pro day.

Eight scouts -- including NFL representatives from Seattle, Houston, Indianapolis, San Diego, Kansas City, Denver and San Francisco, along with the CFL's Edmonton -- attended the event to gather information on prospective players.

Also spotted was a Miami Dolphins representative, though that was linebacker and former Grizzly Jordan Tripp, not a scout.

Montana has become a must-stop for many franchises in recent years, said Texans scout Bob Beers, a former Montana offensive line coach.

"It does really well, it really does," said Beers, who was in attendance Monday. "There's great work ethic here and a lot of the I-AA schools or FCS schools, there's a lot good work ethics and they always have a chip on their shoulder.

"You get good prospects and good players out of it."

Among those hoping to fit that bill was former Griz Zack Wagenmann, the school's all-time leader in sacks and a recent Combine participant.

Because of his performance at the Combine in February -- the Missoula Sentinel grad posted excellent numbers in the agility-based drills -- Wagenmann did some picking and choosing in what to run Monday.

"My two low marks at the Combine, I was able to redo those and improve both," said Wagenmann, who tallied 17.5 sacks last season to finish with a career total of 37.5. "If you do the full gamut, it's a lot of stuff. .. It was definitely nice being able to pick the things I wanted to improve and be able to put all my efforts into those."

The new, sleeker Wagenmann (he shed his signature golden locks after the season) leaped 9 feet, 10 inches in the standing broad jump, adding nine inches to his Combine mark. He also pumped out a few more bench presses, getting to 16 reps in the 225-pound lift after he put up 14 before.

Takai, a 299-pound defensive tackle, had the high mark in that category with 27 reps, his first dozen ripped out in lightning-like succession.

"I just try to get it out of the way so I don't get tired fast, as many reps as I can in one breath," he laughed at the day's conclusion. "I was aiming more for a 30, but I would take a 27. .. It's a good number for me."

Grizzly hybrid running back/wide receiver Travon Van shined as the group moved out of the weight room and under the warming sun inside Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

The 5-10 speedster followed a strong bench press showing (16 reps) with a 60-yard shuttle run that landed in the 11.5-second range. His 20 shuttle was a touch above 4 seconds and his three-cone time was 6.81 -- all day bests.

Van ran 4.55 in his 40-yard dash, a step slower than expected, though still another top mark just ahead of fellow WR Jamaal Anderson (4.60).

Van continued to impress during position specific workouts, running routes with Anderson. The duo ran short cuts and deep routes, Van snagging each throw off the arm of former teammate and quarterback Jordan Johnson.

Johnson, who recently signed with the Ottawa Redblacks of the CFL, was initially scheduled to work out Monday but opted to stick to only throwing duties for his wideouts.

Also on the pro day list but not on the field was running back Jordan Canada.

Grizzly defensive back Josh Dennard was performing well through the opening set of skills but tweaked a hamstring on his second 40-yard attempt and had to watch the rest of the day from the sideline.

Safety Matt Hermanson also worked out, as did former Grizzly Anthony Goodwin, a cornerback who last played with Montana in 2013. Goodwin had a day-high 34.5 inches in the vertical jump with good marks in the 20 shuttle as well.

Outsiders participating were Montana-Western pass rusher Phil Selin and Carroll College kicker/punter Rhys Felton. The latter showed off his booming leg on punts while allowing Takai to exhibit his other skill set: long snapping.

All the while, scouts along the sideline watched quietly, making notes on busy scratchpads while attending to their stop watches. It's hard to tell who has interest or what teams may come calling, Wagenmann said.

"A lot of the teams are pretty hush, hush about it," he said. "You'll talk to a few here and there, but really you don't know until draft day."

For Wagenmann, the NFL draft is a likelihood. For the other eight players on the field Monday, they'll hope their pro-day performances are enough to yield a pro careers.

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