Wide receiver Max McCaffrey described Wednesday as one last chance to take the field with his Duke brothers.
His three actual brothers were looking on, and the senior put on quite the show.
Ten former Blue Devils did their best to impress NFL scouts representing 29 of the league’s 32 teams at Duke’s pro day Wednesday at Pascal Field House, completing lifts, agility exercises and position-specific drills.
McCaffrey made the biggest splash of the day, turning in a blistering 4.36 second 40-yard dash with his entire family—including three-time Super Bowl champion father Ed McCaffrey and 2015 Heisman Trophy runner-up brother Christian McCaffrey—watching intently from the sidelines.
“It was really cool—I know it’s hard for them to make it out at one time, they’re all really busy. It means a lot to me that they could come out and support me today,” Max McCaffrey said. “[My dad] always claims he ran a faster time than I could, but I don’t know about that. They were doing the hand-times, starting and stopping.”
Max McCaffrey turning in the fastest 40 time so far (unofficially low 4.4s) pic.twitter.com/R0NA63dP7l— Ryan Hoerger (@ryan_hoerger) March 23, 2016
WR Max McCaffrey - son of Ed, brother of Christian - ran 40 at Duke Pro Day in 4.36. 36-inch VJ, 10’2 broad. Another McCaffrey NFL bound.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 23, 2016
After going through measurements, lifts and on-field drills, McCaffrey, running back Shaquille Powell and tight ends Braxton Deaver and David Reeves caught passes from former Georgia Tech and James Madison quarterback Vad Lee, a Durham native.
ACC Defensive Player of the Year Jeremy Cash did not participate in on-field workouts Wednesday. The strike safety is viewed as the top pro prospect leaving Durham but underwent wrist surgery in December. Cash said he intends to hold a private workout in mid-April.
“It’s been a little difficult to get feedback because I haven’t run yet, but that’s okay because when I do I’m sure they’ll be pleasantly surprised,” he said.
After completing his pass-catching drills, Deaver headed out to the field for long-snapping. Like Powell—Duke’s leading rusher in 2015 who also delivered timely plays on special teams—the tight end is hoping his versatility will help catch the eye of an NFL team.
“You want to keep a guy around who can help a team win. If you want me to snap it, I’ll snap it. You want me to fill up the water cooler, I’ll do that too,” Deaver said. “I’m excited for the process and happy to be of any help at all.”
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Last season, offensive guard Laken Tomlinson became the first Blue Devil selected in the first round of the NFL draft in 28 years, and Jamison Crowder enjoyed a strong rookie season as a fourth-round pick.
This year’s NFL draft looms April 28-30 in Chicago, and several of the Blue Devils hope to be traveling well before then, off to hold personal workouts with teams and visit their facilities in hopes of pursuing their dreams.
“It’s something I’ve been waiting on for 16 years. We don’t play football for a long time just to play it—everybody wants to get to this point,” defensive tackle Carlos Wray said. “Now that I’m here, I’m just trying to enjoy it.”
Other notes and quotes from Duke's pro day:
Hat turned backwards, Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey stood with his family and watched Max McCaffrey go through the gymnastics of pro day, able to spend part of his spring break supporting his brother. The Heisman Trophy runner-up in 2015 amassed 2,664 rushing and receiving yards as a sophomore, and almost assuredly will be the star of the Cardinals' pro day in the near future. Watching his older brother has provided a bit of a blueprint to learn from.
"Just enjoy it and [know that] it comes with a lot of hard work," Christian McCaffrey said. "He’s worked extremely hard, so watching him go through the whole thing, I definitely have a little bit to look forward to, so I’m excited."
Another McCaffrey brother, Dylan, was heavily recruited by Duke head coach David Cutcliffe, but wound up committing to play quarterback for Jim Harbaugh at Michigan earlier this year. Max McCaffrey and the rest of the Duke pass-catchers had developed a rapport with Vad Lee in the past few weeks and put it on full display Wednesday, and a brother-to-brother connection was not called for.
"I wish, if it was legal, but they have really strict rules about that," Max McCaffrey said. "Every time I’m back home I throw with my little brother and it’s a good time, and I’m excited to watch him next year at Michigan."
Cash could have gone through this process last year, but opted instead to return to Durham for a final season as a Blue Devil. After eclipsing 100 tackles for the third straight year, the Miami native said he was able to work on some of the things he heard from NFL teams as he tested the draft waters.
"It really gave me an opportunity to work on some of those skills that teams really wanted to see. I had a lot more freedom within our defense, and it gave me a lot of opportunity to showcase some of my versatility. That really helps when I transition to the next level," Cash said. "I was able to play a little more man coverage, play in the box a lot more and really just blitz off the edge."
Cash said he wants to get his hamstring to full strength before toeing the line to run in front of scouts.
Deaver said teams tend to play things close to the vest. During the waiting period, he plans to keep fine-tuning his route-running and building up his stamina, working toward becoming the player he was before a knee injury cost him the 2014 season.
One thing he will not have to focus on any more—the dreaded sprint against the clock.
"It’s nice I won’t have to work on a 40 again—that’s a big relief," he said with a smile.
Offensive linemen Matt Skura and Lucas Patrick and linebacker Dwayne Norman also participated in the pro day events, as did the Blue Devils' dynamic special teams duo of kicker Ross Martin and punter Will Monday.
A slew of current and former Blue Devils were on hand to watch as well, including Crowder and current Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ross Cockrell.