LARAMIE — Josh Allen will face bigger stages than the one he threw on Friday afternoon during Wyoming football’s annual Pro Day. In fact, it was a little bit of home cooking for the former Cowboy quarterback, at least compared to the NFL Combine earlier this month in Indianapolis.
“I think, obviously coming out here, being in an element that I’ve known, practicing here a bunch, being around my teammates that I’ve been around for the last four years, there was a sense of comfortableness,” Allen said, “and yeah, it definitely felt a little more relaxed here.”
But it could be a long time before Laramie and University of Wyoming athletics play host to a more nationally scrutinized event.
The Cowboys’ Pro Day, which was closed to the general public because of the added attention, drew live broadcasts from on-site NFL Network and ESPN reporters, as well as numerous higher-ups from NFL teams that are especially interested in quarterbacks at the moment. And while Allen’s emergence over the past year as a potential top NFL Draft pick has increased Wyoming’s exposure in intangible ways, Friday was very much a concrete assurance: The football world is paying attention.
“What a great day for Wyoming football, and I appreciate the interest that’s here,” Wyoming head football coach Craig Bohl said. “It’s a special day. I think our program is certainly transitioning. Our real main goal is to take Cowboy football back to national prominence. There’s different building blocks that come with that.
“Certainly our seniors did a great job today, and I was really proud of Josh Allen. He’s come in and he’s handled all the extra attention, and I think he’s getting better. The ball came out of his hand really well today, and I think the sky’s the limit for him, as well as some of our other seniors. So we’re real excited.”
Seventy-five media members were credentialed for the event, and UW announced that all 32 NFL teams would be in attendance. The owner, general manager and head coach of the Cleveland Browns were in attendance — Jimmy Haslam, John Dorsey and Hue Jackson, respectively — and the New York Giants sent head coach Pat Shurmur. Those teams hold the top two picks in next month’s draft.
Allen, who chose to leave Wyoming for the NFL after his redshirt junior season, was joined at the Pro Day by eight members of the 2017 Cowboys’ senior class: offensive lineman Ryan Cummings, long snapper Kolton Donovan, cornerback Rico Gafford, safety Tim Kamana, defensive lineman Nela Lolohea, linebacker/nickel back Jalen Ortiz, cornerback Robert Priester and fullback Drew Van Maanen.
Gafford drew the most attention of anyone outside Allen on Friday, running his 40-yard dash times at around the 4.20-second mark and posting solid numbers in the vertical and broad jumps. The players also participated in cone and shuttle drills, 225-pound bench presses, and were measured. Donovan did not participate in any of the drills, as he is still recovering from an ACL injury, and Allen’s only action was the on-field throwing session. The Firebaugh, California, native was Wyoming’s lone participant in this year’s Combine, and his success there gave him no reason to repeat the tests Friday.
“We were first in broad and vert and top three in the 3-cone and the 40-yard dash,” Allen said. “So I think we accomplished what we wanted there.”
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Allen did measure in at 6-foot-5, one-eighth of an inch taller than at the Combine, and 232 pounds, five pounds lighter. But the passing is what the crowd was there to see.
Allen showed off his trademark cannon of an arm with a handful of deep passes at the end of the session. His short passes and underneath routes, though, are what was most on display. He appeared to succeed on those, with nary an inaccurate throw. Allen’s quarterback trainer Jordan Palmer, who ran the session, said afterward that he felt Allen was “perfect” in that regard.
“I think it all starts from the feet,” Allen said, “and as accurate as I want to be, it starts there. So, Jordan Palmer’s done a really good job with me and seeing everything that’s going on within my mechanics. We came out and showed that it’s improving.”
Allen threw to a few receivers who are friends with Palmer as well as Van Maanen and current Wyoming receiver Ayden Eberhardt.
The event also a provided Wyoming a way to show off its newly opened High Altitude Performance Center, a $44 million facility adjacent to War Memorial Stadium. The measurements, jumps and bench presses were held in the center’s spacious weight room.
“This was awesome, and Craig Bohl does a great job here,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “I took a walk through the new facility, and I was blown away. What you offer here was as good as anything I see at LSU or any of those kinds of things. And you have to put it in perspective. I’m at Alabama, LSU, Penn State. I go to all the major Pro Days. Clemson. The facilities here are great.
“I thought the kid put on a show. I thought the people showed up. And this is the common denominator with (Bohl’s former school) North Dakota State: the people. The coaches, the fans, you guys love your football, and you have an appreciation for it, and it’s really cool.”
The on-field portions were held in Wyoming’s Indoor Practice Facility. But in light of fellow draft prospect Sam Darnold’s successful Pro Day in the rain at Southern California, Allen said he would have taken advantage of any inclement weather Friday.
“I was hoping it was snowing, actually,” he said. “If it had started snowing, we probably would have stepped outside for 20, 30 throws.”
But there was nothing but sunshine Friday afternoon for Wyoming football.