The following is an excerpt of a 1922 ad published in the New York Times about USC’s pro day:
“ … is promised to be the biggest collection of spangles, gilt, glitter, sawdust, lemonade as pink as the blush of a maid, aerialists, freaks, clowns, trained wild animals, zoological types, elephants, gymnasts, wire walkers, bee-you-ti-ful horses and bee-you-ti-full-er riders…”
OK, it was actually published about the Barnum & Bailey circus coming to town.
But I think they meant this ad for USC’s pro day.
Eighty-eight years later, while you might have trouble finding the elephants, this ad could describe the scene unfolding on campus today. On Cromwell Field, Trojan football players preparing themselves for the NFL draft will work out in front of a crowd of NFL scouts, coaches, general managers, families and friends that rivals the throng gathered at the Vatican on Easter Sunday.
Don’t believe me? Ask Rob Rang from NFLDraftScout.com, who was in attendance last year.
“It’s an absolute circus here at the USC campus, as hundreds of NFL executives, scouts, ex-Trojan players and others close to the program flood the field to get a close-up look at the school’s top talent,” he wrote.
Afterward, Rang continued his assessment.
“The USC pro day was every bit the spectacle it had been hyped,” he wrote. “The fact that the Trojans allow media, former players and family on the field to watch the workout along with scouts made the event the most heavily attended pro day of the year.”
Much of the attention that USC’s pro day received last year was warranted. There was Mark Sanchez and his top-10 draft status; Clay Matthews, who would go on to make the Pro Bowl; and Brian Cushing, who would be named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year.
The Trojans don’t have nearly as much firepower going to the pros this year, so the crowd, the act and the atmosphere might resemble a mere matinee performance. Yet, that doesn’t mean there is nobody worth watching or players who don’t need to impress.
The player who will garner the most “ooh”s and “ahh”s from the crowd, and the player who will be under the most scrutiny, will be safety Taylor Mays. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound cheetah had a largely disappointing senior year, although his showing at the NFL scouting combine proved more fruitful.
At the start of last season, Mays was touted as a first-team All-American with safety Eric Berry from Tennessee. There was even talk about him being considered a Heisman candidate. As the year wore on, Mays disappeared from the national discussion and the top 10 in obscenely early mock drafts.
Other than his much-scrutinized 40-yard-dash time, which I’ll get to in a minute, his NFL combine results arguably fell below expectation. TFYDraft.com’s Tony Pauline called Mays’ showing at the Senior Bowl and NFL combine “poor performances.” In the field drills, Pauline said Mays had trouble backpedaling and would often stop completely to change direction.
And despite his freak-of-nature athleticism, Pauline insists that “Mays is likely to go later in the draft than someone with his measurables usually would.”
Many people have Mays going in the late first or early second round in the draft next month. Pro day will give Mays a chance to show off any improvement he might have in his defensive back drills and impress the scouts and coaches in attendance.
But unfortunately, what was going to be the highlight of today will not happen. Mays said yesterday he will not run the 40-yard dash, which arguably would have been the most anticipated and noteworthy 40 yards run on campus in USC’s history.
There are two reasons for this. Firstly, nobody of Mays’ size should ever run the 40 as fast as he does. Secondly, nobody actually knows how fast he really is.
At the combine last month, Mays ran an official 40-time of 4.43, or .03 seconds behind the fastest tight end, nevermind the .15 seconds he finished behind the fastest finisher — wide receiver Jacoby Ford.
Yet, many people in attendance had Mays’ time clocked in the 4.2’s — some as low as 4.24, which would have tied with Chris Johnson’s combine record. When the NFL Network superimposed the fastest runners from all six positions onto on clip, Mays finished second, a hair behind Ford, leading many to validate their claims that Mays’ official 40-time was wrong.
With this announcement, nobody knows the next time Mays will run a clocked 40.
Without Mays running the 40, a lot of focus will be on running back Joe McKnight and receiver Damian Williams, the other two high-profile Trojans entering the draft. Both could make millions of dollars today — or lose millions of dollars, adding even more intrigue to the circus.
“Spittin’ Sports” runs Wednesdays. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or e-mail Kenny at firstname.lastname@example.org.