Combine of their own: Golden Lion seniors perform for NFL scouts

Why the NCAA’s sack leader in all divisions last season was left off the invitation list for the NFL Combine is still a mystery. But Brandon Thurmond got an opportunity to perform for NFL scouts during Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s pro day activities Monday.

“It hurt my feelings a little bit because I led the nation in sacks and I still didn’t get an opportunity, but it’s all good, though,” Thurmond said. “God has mysterious ways.”

Thurmond, a defensive end who had 17.5 sacks in 2012, earned many defensive player of the year awards and played in the prestigious East-West Shrine Game, but he didn’t get to draw more national attention like UAPB teammate Terron Armstead did during at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis more than a week ago.

“We tried and his agents tried to get him a showing at the Combine,” UAPB coach Monte Coleman said. “It’s always a plus. The East-West Shrine is a very good venue, but it’s one of those things where he didn’t get invited to the Combine. But (Monday) can put him on the map as well.”

Thurmond said Monday he ran 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash, had a vertical jump of about 3 inches and did 22 repetitions on the bench press. He’s hoping to improve his bench press for other combines.

About 14 UAPB seniors attended pro day, which was split into an indoor session at the school’s weight room and an outdoor session at Pine Bluff High’s Jordan Stadium so athletes could run on turf. Scouts from 14 NFL teams were on hand, but they couldn’t comment on player performances per NFL rules.

Armstead made national headlines on Feb. 23 when he set an NFL Combine record for offensive linemen with a 4.71-second 40. For UAPB’s pro day, he sat out the drills he already did in Indianapolis, but worked on offensive lineman drills conducted by San Diego Chargers assistant coach Joe D’Alessandris and performed a couple of agility drills.

“It’s been a good experience to put your name out there,” Armstead said. “I’m just staying humble. I come from humble beginnings. I still haven’t made it anywhere. I’m not on an NFL team yet. I have a lot of work to do.”

Armstead has moved up 48 spots to 50th overall on’s list of top NFL Draft prospects since the Combine. He’s ranked fifth among all offensive tackles and is projected to go in the second round. The Chicago Bears, who are from Armstead’s home state, have the 50th overall pick in the draft.

But the Cahokia, Ill., native hasn’t paid too much attention to the draft boards.

“It’s still early to determine what round you’re going to do,” said Armstead, who’s been working out in Pensacola, Fla. “Any college player is shooting for the first round, so that will be a plus.”

But he said he seems to have drawn interest from all 32 teams.

“You can only play for one,” he said. “One has to love you.”

Running back Dennis Jenkins had a strong showing Monday, with 28 repetitions on the bench press at 225 pounds, a 39 ½-inch vertical leap, and a 10-foot, 7-inch broad jump.

“I’m pretty satisfied,” he said. “The fastest time they got me in the 40 was a 4.4. That wasn’t my best.”

Jenkins transferred to UAPB for the 2011 season listed as a redshirt sophomore, but the NCAA did not grant him back his redshirt year.

Coleman said it wasn’t for him to say who has a good shot of being drafted out of all the pro day participants, although Armstead has commanded plenty of attention in the offseason and Thurmond made his mark in the regular season.

“It’s not if you’re drafted or not. It’s if you get an opportunity,” he said. “Being a free agent is just as good as being drafted. All you want is that opportunity, and when you get that opportunity, you take advantage of it.”