Matt Johnson, Bo Levi Mitchell, Alden Gibbs and Renard Williams test for professional scouts
A quartet of former Eastern Washington University football players went through a series of physical tests in front of professional scouts at EWU’s Pro Day on March 7 at the Spokane Shock practice facility in Spokane, Wash.
Safety Matt Johnson, quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, cornerback Alden Gibbs and defensive tackle Renard Williams are Eastern’s pro football hopefuls after concluding their careers with the Eagles in 2011. Since they graduated, Johnson has been training in Orlando, Fla., and Mitchell and Williams in Texas in preparation for professional careers, which may start as early as the NFL Draft on April 26-28. All four are hoping to at least receive NFL free agent opportunities, but if not, will pursue opportunities in the Canadian Football League or the Arena League.
Johnson had an impressive 40-yard dash time of 4.54 seconds, and did the 20-yard shuttle run in 3.99. He also lifted 225 pounds 18 times and had a 38-inch vertical jump.
“Going in, I thought my numbers would be around what I was able to do,” Johnson said. “I would have liked to be in the 4.4’s in the 40 and get a 40-inch vertical. But I was pretty pleased.”
Other top performances by the quartet included a 6.73 time in a three-cone drill by Gibbs, and 23 reps at 225 pounds by Williams. Mitchell had bests of 4.95 in the dash, 9.97 in the cone drill and 4.42 in the 20-yard shuttle, and lifted 225 pounds 10 times. He did not throw as part of his testing.
A total of 62 Eagles have been drafted or signed free agent contracts with NFL or CFL teams since 1989. Seven Eagles have been selected to participate in the NFL Scouting Combine in the past nine years (2003-2011), with seven selected to play in 10 different college all-star games.
Johnson would have been a great candidate for combine and all-star game invitations, but his career prematurely came to an end after seven games in the 2012 season because of a shoulder injury. But he says he is 100 percent healthy now. Probably more than any of the tests, Johnson’s weightlifting totals were the most important results of all.
“Pro Day definitely helped me,” he explained. “A lot of people figured I would test that way, but they wanted to make sure I was healthy. The 18 reps I was able to do really showed them.”
Now, he and his agent, Cameron Foster, will continue to field calls and inquiries from prospective teams.
“I’ve already had a couple of workouts for teams,” he said. “We are fielding calls and we will meet with more teams in April. I will just go where I need to go.”
He spent six weeks in Orlando working with strength, speed and conditioning coach Tom Shaw. Johnson said about 20-25 fellow prospects were taking part in the workouts alongside of him.
“They are all going through the same thing as I am,” Johnson said. “Obviously the weather there was a huge benefit – it was 80 every day. We were isolated and didn’t have a lot of distractions. We worked out twice a day and that’s all you did.”
As Johnson approaches draft day – and the free agent signings that follow – he doesn’t quite know what to expect. Regardless, it will be an experience he can pass along a year from now to his twin brother Zach Johnson, who will be a senior in the 2012 season for the Eagles.
“It’s exciting, but nerve-racking,” Matt added. “You don’t know how to take it because I’ve never been through it before.”
Mitchell played in the National Football League Players Association Collegiate Bowl on Jan. 21, 2012 (he completed 8-of-15 passes for 110 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions) and Williams was selected for the Players All-Star Classic Feb. 4, 2012, in Little Rock, Ark. Nathan Overbay and Matt Nichols were selected for the 2010 East-West Shrine Game, the same game Michael Roos played in back in 2005.
Eastern’s most notable current professional is Roos, who became the highest draft choice in school history when Tennessee selected him in the second round of the 2005 NFL draft. He was the 41st selection overall, the third offensive tackle selected and the first NCAA Championship Subdivision player taken. In addition, he was the first Big Sky Conference player selected and the highest since 1989. In 2008, in just his fourth NFL season, he earned prestigious All-Pro honors. Including 35 starts to end his EWU career, Roos ended the 2011 NFL season having made 179 consecutive starts as an offensive tackle. His last 144 starts have come as a Titan (two AFC playoff games, 112 regular season games, 29 pre-season contests and his first-ever Pro Bowl on Feb. 8, 2009).