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Former Irish players get their shot at NFL Pro Day

Mar 20, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT

Dan Fox AP

The NFL descended upon South Bend Thursday, with 14 former Notre Dame football players working out for NFL brass. The Irish’s draft eligible prospects went through a day of drills and testing in front of representatives from all 32 NFL teams. Also working out with the current crop of Irish players were Robby Toma and Mike Golic, members of the 2012 Irish looking to get picked up in free agency.

While nine Irish players were invited to workout at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, veterans Carlo Calabrese, Dan Fox, Tommy Rees, Kona Schwenke and Nick Tausch had their first chance to show their abilities to prospective employers. It appears that for the most part that opportunity was captured.

If there was a winner in today’s proceedings, it’d have to be Dan Fox. In his first appearance for scouts, Fox ran a 4.59 in the 40-yard dash, a number that would’ve ranked third best among linebackers at the Combine. Measuring in at 6’2-5/8″ and 233 pounds, Fox ran a 4.31 shuttle time, a number that bested George Atkinson’s time and was just a fraction of a second off of TJ Jones’ 4.27 from the combine. Fox is the type of sideline to sideline athlete that could temp defenses looking to upgrade the athleticism against the pass and also find a special teams contributor.

Carlo Calabrese also showed off better than expected athleticism. Weighing in at a sleek 236 pounds, Calabrese ran a 4.86 40-yard dash, a number that had to surprise more than a few Irish fans. Expect to see Calabrese in an NFL training camp.

Kona Schwenke solidified his case as the sleeper of the group, running a 4.88 40-yard dash at 285 pounds. Schwenke looked athletic in every testing event, the type of versatility on a big-bodied player that will give him a chance to catch on with a franchise.

Several Irish players that participated at the combine didn’t re-test. TJ Jones stood pat with his 4.48 electronic 40 time. Troy Niklas didn’t test either. Stephon Tuitt was in South Bend, but had a boot on his foot after an injury was revealed at the Combine.

Louis Nix was active in drills and also ran the 40. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin kept a close eye on Nix, a potential anchor for the interior of Pittsburgh’s 3-4 defense. Helping his stock was Bennett Jackson, who improved his 40 time with a blazing 4.40, improving from a 4.51 in Indianapolis.

Last but not least, Tommy Rees stated his case to make an NFL roster. While Rees didn’t break the five-second barrier in the 40 (he ran a 5.08), he completed 32 of 34 passes to receivers, with one drop. Rees’ 31-inch vertical leap would’ve bested Teddy Bridgewater, Taj Boyd, Stephen Morris and Jordan Lynch.

(Who saw that one coming?)

  1. NotreDan - Mar 20, 2014 at 9:36 PM

    *cringing* Oh Tommy

  2. fnc111 - Mar 20, 2014 at 10:51 PM

    How would Tommy make a roster? NFL teams will take a third stringer if they see a developmental prospect. He could never be put in a real game so what’s the point in carrying a guy like that on a 53-man roster?

    • dickasman - Mar 21, 2014 at 12:58 AM

      I bet he’s got great aim w the water bottle. Every nfl team needs a solid water bottle squirter esp w a drunken sister w loose morals.

      I should really stop yanking on Tommy’s chains. He was a good soldier albeit frustratingly good soldier. I don’t hate the guy, just his right shoulder and his Charlie Weis hips. Good luck to him

      • papadec - Mar 21, 2014 at 1:24 AM

        dick – Tommy was a member of the team & a fair target. When you make comments about his family – that’s taking cheap shots. C’mon you’re better than that.

      • 1historian - Mar 21, 2014 at 10:13 PM

        I’m pretty sure he couldn’t give less of a s..t what you say about him, but taking cheap shots at his family is low – even for you.

  3. jem5b - Mar 20, 2014 at 11:13 PM

    QB Tommy Rees, who wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine, had a very up-and-down collegiate career for the Irish with good production, but too many head-scratching decisions over the years. However on Thursday, he looked sharp, throwing passes to WR T.J. Jones, WR Robby Toma and RB George Atkinson and finishing 32-for-34 during the scripted workout.

    The 40-yard dash (5.1 range) and broad jump (8-foot-9) weren’t as impressive, but overall, Rees had a positive day and will definitely receive a call from a NFL team shortly after the NFL Draft if he goes undrafted.

  4. onward2victory - Mar 21, 2014 at 2:34 AM

    I hope Tommy has a long NFL career of going into each season as the 2nd or 3rd string back up and inevitably getting thrust into the starting role sometime during the season because the QB’s ahead of him become unavailable for all sorts of bizarre reasons. That would just make sense.

    • 4horsemenrideagain - Mar 21, 2014 at 10:04 AM

      31 inch vert!

      the kid has some hops and all this time we didn’t even know about it.

    • ndgoldandblue - Mar 21, 2014 at 1:49 PM

      I know that I razzed the kid quite a few times on this blog, but I’d like to see that happen as well. Tommy has three things in his favor: 1) Accuracy (which wasn’t always there last year), 2) Good pocket presence, 3) A cool head. A very underrated commodity in the NFL, in my opinion, is a solid backup quarterback who has no problem being a backup. If anything, that might be the biggest reason Tommy makes an NFL roster.

      He’s a real cool cucumber–doesn’t get rattled after making mistakes. He’s very immobile, but he stays in the pocket and doesn’t panic when the pass rush is coming. And his accuracy has always been pretty reliable. When your number-one quarterback goes down and you’re trying to make a playoff push, you need someone who can manage games and keep the team afloat until the starter returns. I think of guys like Matt Cassel and Gus Frerotte as personifying that type. Tommy’s of a similar mold.

      • irish4006 - Mar 21, 2014 at 7:59 PM

        Can you please pass that thing along? Don’t worry, I live in WA and it is perfectly legal here.

        What is this accuracy thing you speak of? Do you have the numbers broken out by passes greater than 10/15/20 yards? Also, you are playing for ND, there will be some athletes on your team who will be catching balls you threw 2 yards behind them (think the TD catch TJ caught vs. Stanford in the end zone). Do words like Floyd or Eifert sound familiar?

        Matt Cassel was not Tommy Rees. He was expected to take over from Carson Palmer at USC before Leinert snatched the job with a great season of spring practice.

      • mtndguy - Mar 22, 2014 at 3:22 PM

        His accuracy has always been reliable? Seriously?

  5. hui73 - Mar 21, 2014 at 5:25 AM

    All good news for those in charge of recruiting.

  6. upthera44 - Mar 21, 2014 at 9:52 AM

    Just out of curiosity, are pro-day results on individual campuses accepted by scouts as official numbers? Is there any skepticism about the objectivity of the results since it’s on a team’s home turf and, presumably, with their own staff doing the measuring? Seems like people consistently do better at their own pro-day than at the big combines.

  7. irishdog80 - Mar 21, 2014 at 9:54 AM

    I wonder how Robby Toma did. One byproduct of the the NFL’s increasingly intensive scouting, is that players like Danny Woodhead and Julian Edelman along with others find their ways on to NFL rosters and productive high paying careers in the NFL. Every NFL team needs receivers that have a knack for getting open and catching anything thrown their way.

  8. getsome99 - Mar 21, 2014 at 11:19 AM

    Damn! The title of this article freaked me out at first.

  9. fnc111 - Mar 21, 2014 at 11:22 AM

    Big hockey game for ND today. Notice I said a game. Not practice. We’re not talking about practice.

    ND vs. UMass-Lowell at 5 p.m. on NBC Sports Network. Conference Semi-Finals.

  10. getsome99 - Mar 21, 2014 at 11:32 AM

    I have posted this before but I do believe Dan Fox will get drafted. Scouts will see some great film on him from 2012 and also late 2013. This draft class is weak at ILB and his pro day should secure a 6th round selection. That gives him a realistic shot of at least making some team’s PS and ultimately on a 53.

    This might be somewhat of a reach, but I think Fox has the potential to be the surprise sleeper in this entire draft. I’m thinking Patriots.

  11. italianirish - Mar 21, 2014 at 2:09 PM

    I made this bet early during last season with my friend and fellow ND alum:

    Tommy Rees will take at least one snap in a preseason NFL game.

    I still think I have a real shot of winning. Most people I mention this to think I made a huge mistake. Curious to get the board’s thoughts.

    • irish4006 - Mar 21, 2014 at 8:03 PM

      I think you should take a second mortgage on your house and bet it all on it… If there is one bet you can’t lose this year, this is it. I guarantee it.

  12. danirish - Mar 21, 2014 at 2:13 PM

    Tommy Rees soars!

  13. ajw21 - Mar 21, 2014 at 4:37 PM

    Is Tommy Rees better then Quinn & Clausen? 2 backups in the NFL. I would be shocked if he was a backup, I would say fringe practice squad, emergency 3rd string guy. If I was him I would listen to the NCAA commercials and go Pro in another career.
    Goodluck to all former Irish Players
    Go Irish!

    • upthera44 - Mar 22, 2014 at 10:23 AM

      Tell that to the six-figure check he’ll be making on the practice squad

      • irish4006 - Mar 22, 2014 at 4:18 PM

        How about we all raise money to pay you a six figure check when he makes a practice squad. Will this squad be practicing to play football? He may make a practice squad for fishing, or golfing, or curling; not football.

  14. viktory2013 - Mar 21, 2014 at 8:40 PM

    Unfortunately, I think some of those numbers are a little suspect. Dan Fox doing a time right there with Atkinson and Jones?? Come on guys, seriously? I’ve seen Fox play for a couple of years and he couldn’t outrun my old dog with a full bladder. And Rees with a 31 inch leap?? Tommy Rees was one of the most unathletic quarterbacks to ever start for ND. If he makes an NFL team then I’m trying out too because all logic and reason have vanished and insanity reigns.

    The only one of those boys I can actually see making an NFL roster is Schwenke, possibly as a free agent. The rest need to work on their resumes.

  15. 1historian - Mar 22, 2014 at 8:10 AM

    This is for ALL of you Rees haters – ALL OF YOU.

    If Rees makes an NFL team and is at least on a practice squad come opening day, each and every one of you should come on line and admit you MIGHT – I realize that’s as much as I can ask for – have been wrong.

    • irish4006 - Mar 22, 2014 at 4:24 PM

      Unless it’s with the dolphins, jets or raiders (the monkeys in those front offices don’t have a clue), I will.

      What if he doesn’t? Do you promise to go on a camping trip with getsome99 and possibly cuddle through the night to stay warm?

  16. mikes1160 - Mar 22, 2014 at 4:12 PM

    Headline should have been:

    “Rees shines at ND pro day. Dickasman has religious conversion”

  17. barrystriceps - Mar 23, 2014 at 4:04 AM

    I would rather have Tyler palko as an NFL backup. Or Reggie ball. Hats off to me for remembering Reggie ball.

  18. - Mar 26, 2014 at 2:18 AM

    Louis Nix will be a beast in the NFL.

    Manti Te’o played better then I though he would with the Chargers.

  19. hlstride - Apr 4, 2014 at 10:34 PM

    It boggles my mind tha even after his graduation and after a great career at ND, people still enjoy taking shots at Tommy Rees. All he ever did for the Irish was go out on the field and give his all each time he played. How many passes did each of the critics in this line of commentary complete while playing for the Irish? How many wins did they secure for the Irish? How many Bowl Games did they win? You people should be thankful for what Tommy Rees did for the Irish. Good luck to you, Mr. Rees. Do not give up.

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