LARAMIE — Make no mistake, Josh Allen was the headliner at Wyoming football’s Pro Day on Friday. Allen’s prospects as a projected first-round selection in the upcoming NFL Draft brought television crews from both NFL Network and ESPN, as well as a bevy of NFL scouts and coaches.
But Rico Gafford made for one heck of an opener.
The former Cowboys cornerback opened some eyes with his 36 1/2 vertical jump. Then, he made them double take with a pair of 40-yard dashes that the Star-Tribune unofficially timed at 4.26 and 4.23 seconds. One scout had Gafford at 4.19.
“That’s kind of going around like wildfire right now,” long snapper Kolton Donovan said. “It doesn’t surprise me. When he ran that, I was like, ‘Sheesh, that was fast, dude.’ So, that was a lot of fun. I mean, guys came out here and tore it up.”
For comparison, the best 40-yard dash run by a defensive back at the NFL Combine this year was a 4.32, and the fastest 40-time ever recorded at the event was John Ross’ 4.22 in 2017. Gafford’s vertical would have tied for ninth among cornerbacks at this year’s Combine.
“I heard from a few scouts that they had me at 4.24, 4.25, 4.27, stuff like that,” Gafford said. “It felt good to me. I came in wanting the scouts to have nothing less than a 4.35, so to have them leave the day with 4.2 on all their clocks and everything like that, that’s a game changer for me. So hopefully, come draft time, my name’s called.”
Gafford excelled in track and field in high school, setting the Iowa State Meet record in the 100-yard dash.
“I didn’t think I had that in me,” he said of his alleged 4.19. “I ran a 4.38 when I was in high school and haven’t run it since.”
Gafford hadn’t timed himself in the 40-yard dash since running a 4.36 earlier in the offseason. He expected his time to improve somewhat, once he was able to get more rest and was aiming for a run in the low 4.3s or below. He was hoping for 10-foot-5 in the broad jump and jumped 10-foot-2. Fifteen cornerbacks bested that mark at the Combine.
“I didn’t see this (coming),” he said. “So I’m happy with myself.”
Said head coach Craig Bohl: “We thought Rico would run really well. It surprised me how well he ran. When you start getting down in the 4.2s — and those clocks are not average clocks; those are pretty close to the best clocks — I thought he ran really well. And he upped his stock today.”
Gafford was unable to complete his drills Friday because of a cramp in his left calf.
“I feel like I did a great job in the weight room,” said Gafford, who benched pressed 225 pounds 10 times. “Wanted to do more. I obviously couldn’t do more due to the injury I just sustained, but other than that felt like I had a great day.”
Gafford will be attending the Broncos’ local Pro Day on April 2, he said. Offensive lineman Ryan Cummings also said he will be attending. He set personal records on his jumps (8-foot-5 broad jump, 28.5 vertical) and his 40-yard dash (5.3 seconds) and agility drills, he said.
A Broncos assistant gave Cummings a lengthy on-field workout.
“I thought I did pretty well, and he thought so, too,” said Cummings, who played both tackle and guard at Wyoming.
Drew Van Maanen showed off a variety of skills Friday. The fullback ran through some receiving drills with Allen, in addition to the standard tests.
“We came out here yesterday, and we kind of ran through it and stuff,” said Van Maanen, who made one particularly athletic catch on an Allen passes. “It’s cool being back out here, running some routes with him, catching some balls with him. Because the last couple months, it’s been someone else showing balls to me. So being back out here with Josh is awesome.”
He set a personal record in everything he did in the weight room Friday (9-foot-10 broad jump, 33 vertical jump, 17 bench press reps).
Van Maanen also did some long snapping, a role he filled for Wyoming as a senior after being the Cowboys’ backup for three years.
“I felt good,” he said. “I think I had one or two that got a little loose for me, but overall my set of 10, I felt really good about it.”
Donovan also snapped for Wyoming on Friday. He entered the 2017 season as the Cowboys’ starter before suffering a torn ACL in the season opener. Donovan will also participate in Southern Utah’s Pro Day on Tuesday. He spent his first three seasons of college there before coming to Wyoming as a graduate transfer.
“The snapping was great,” said Donovan, who snapped for the Saints, Bills and Chargers. “I put everything on the right hip and had a good day.”
Donovan did not participate in any of the drills because of the ACL injury but said that he might do more at Southern Utah’s event.
Defensive lineman Nela Lolohea led all Cowboys wth 21 bench press reps Friday.
“It’s a lot of adrenaline,” he said. “You don’t think much. You’re just going and going and going.”
Cummings and safety Tim Kamana each recorded 18 reps, linebacker/nickel back Jalen Ortiz had 16, and cornerback Robert Priester had 13. By the Star-Tribune’s very unofficial measurements, Ortiz and Priester ran 4.53-second 40-yard dashes, Lolohea ran a 4.62, Kamana ran a 4.63 and Van Maanen ran a 4.76.
Follow University of Wyoming athletics reporter Brandon Foster on Twitter @BFoster91