'One more ride with the guys:' Duke football's 13 NFL prospects carry on program's legacy at 2024 Pro Day

DeWayne Carter and Ja'Mion Franklin have been an instrumental part of Duke's defensive line.
DeWayne Carter and Ja'Mion Franklin have been an instrumental part of Duke's defensive line.

A new era of Duke football is fully upon us as spring practice is underway in head coach Manny Diaz’s first season at the helm, but Thursday marked one final showcase for the class whose mindset from the start was to “be people who change the legacy of Duke football,” in the words of five-year player DeWayne Carter.

On a gloomy spring day in Durham, NFL scouts and front office staffers representing all 32 teams sheltered inside Pascal Field House to watch 13 draft hopefuls perform in the program’s 2024 Pro Day. The prospects participated in a series of speed and agility tests before moving into specific positional drills, in addition to bench press, vertical leap and physical measurements. 

The crown jewel of Duke’s class is offensive lineman Graham Barton, as the two-time All-American is projected to be selected in the first two rounds of the upcoming NFL draft. Fellow offensive linemen Jacob Monk, Maurice McIntyre and Jake Hornibrook joined Barton at the Pro Day, along with defensive linemen Carter, Ja’Mion Franklin and Anthony Nelson, defensive backs Myles Jones, Jeremiah Lewis and Al Blades Jr., wide receiver Jalon Calhoun, running back Jaylen Coleman and punter Porter Wilson.

While Barton attended the NFL Combine in Indianapolis at the beginning of the month, he did not participate in any drills — meaning Thursday was the first chance for NFL representatives to watch the Brentwood, Tenn., native work out on the field. Barton took advantage and put on a show, impressing those in attendance with fluid mobility and spectacular times.

The most notable event of the day, the 40-yard-dash, came first, and the 6-foot-5 lineman started the session off emphatically. Barton confidently stepped to the line first and posted an unofficial 4.84-second time, incredible for a 311-pounder.

“It's just great to be out here with these guys one more time, just competing with these guys one more time,” Barton said of his Pro Day experience. “Everyone looked prepared, everyone looked sharp, just really proud of the way everyone came out here and just gave their all today.”

While the setting was generally subdued and intense — often even reaching complete silence as players entered their stance before drills — noticeable buzz stirred each time Barton completed a drill. Possibly the loudest moment of the day came as Barton made the final turn of his 7.34-second three-cone drill, which would have placed him fifth among offensive linemen at the combine.

“The only difference really [between the combine and Pro Day] is just, here, you're at Duke, right? You're on your home turf, you're on a field you've practiced at 100 times with your friends that you’ve been with for years,” Barton said. “It's all quiet and tense out here. But you try to loosen the mood and just have fun and compete with your guys, and I think that's really what it's all about.”

While there have been questions about Barton's specific position in the NFL, he re-asserted that he is willing and prepared to perform wherever he is asked to play. The first team All-ACC recipient, who will stay home for draft day rather than heading to Detroit, posted a 4.43-second short shuttle time, slotting him at fourth among offensive lineman times from the combine.

While the focus centered around Duke’s former starting left tackle, other Blue Devil standouts also put forth their best effort under the watchful eye of the scouts.

Carter and Monk received invites to the combine as well, where both of the trench players participated in on-field testing. Seemingly satisfied with their performances in Indianapolis, neither of the former team captains ran at Thursday’s Pro Day, but both competed in their respective positional drills. Carter, who has been rising up draft boards in recent weeks, emphasized how he was able to approach the Pro Day differently thanks to his success in Indianapolis.

“My goal was to go out [to Indianapolis] and do everything. So I planned on doing all of the tests and everything, kind of knock those out of the way so when I get out here, it's kind of just one more ride with the guys,” Carter said. “[I wanted to] come out here, test well, do position drills and really be more of a cheerleader, per se.”

For prospects who weren’t able to showcase their skills at the combine, the Pro Day is a big step in their hopes of being picked up by a professional team. Calhoun, who racked up 3,026 receiving yards in his five-year career at Duke, is included in this group.

“I went out there and did my best and competed,” Calhoun said. “That's the main thing I wanted to do.”

The Greenville, S.C., native focused on showcasing his strengths and proving his work ethic to those in attendance as he moved through testing and wide receiver drills.

“Speed and route-running, definitely,” Calhoun said when asked what he wanted to emphasize at the Pro Day. “I feel like I helped myself in those areas a lot, looking every catch in, running every route to the best of my ability.”

Duke fans are very familiar with Franklin’s strength, as the defensive tackle served as a destructive force up the middle, instrumental in the Blue Devils’ 9-4 season and 17-10 Birmingham Bowl victory against Troy. The Ridgley, Md., native proved that his on-field performance was no fluke, posting 36 reps on the bench press — setting the program record and lifting more than any defensive lineman at the combine.

Other standout numbers included Blades’ 6.81-second three-cone drill, which would have been good for second among cornerbacks at the combine, and Monk’s 31 reps on bench press, tied for third-most had he done it in Indianapolis.

The 2024 NFL Draft will take place in Detroit from April 25 to April 27.


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