March 10, 2011
• Pro Day Interviews: Clay, Moffitt, Watt, Bielema | Photo Gallery
MADISON, Wis. -- Watching some of his former UW teammates warm up and pace while waiting to run their 40-yard sprints, DeAndre Levy had a flashback to his own Pro Timing Day with the Badgers in 2009.
Levy remembered “feeling some jitters before running the first 40’’ and “losing track of my technique’’ because of his anxiety to impress the NFL scouts, who were grading his every move.
He also recalled putting up some “pretty decent times’’ – if not his fastest times in the 40. “I think I did help myself,’’ said Levy, who was drafted in the third round by the Detroit Lions.
In retrospect, he was a solid bargain. Over the last two years, Levy has started 21 games at linebacker for the Lions. Last season, he finished as the team’s fourth-leading tackler with 72.
“Getting your foot in the door is the first thing,’’ said Levy. “Once you get there (the NFL), everyone forgets what round you were in. It’s about what you do when you’re there that matters.’’
What made the difference for Levy in making the jump from college starter to pro starter? “I was blessed with the right opportunity and I kept my focus,’’ said Levy, a Milwaukee native.
He also played with a little swagger.
“You have to pick up the plays (the defenses) right away which is something I did well,’’ he said. “You also have to assert yourself and show them that you’re not some dumb rookie.’’
What’s the best way of doing that?
“You’ve got to let people know you’re there to help the team win,’’ Levy said.
Racine’s Chris Maragos could vouch for that. A year ago, he was on the stage performing for the scouts. “Pro Timing Day is what gave me my opportunity to play in the NFL,’’ said Maragos.
Although he had developed into a reliable, play-making safety for the Badgers – he was one of the leaders of the defense as a senior – the scouts still had their questions about Maragos.
“I can remember how big this day was for me because I didn’t get invited to the combine,’’ Maragos. “What I tried to do was stay relaxed, trust my training and just go out there and compete.’’
Maragos turned some heads with his times in the 40.
“I knew that I had good film, I had a good senior year,’’ he said. “But I didn’t have much on my resume before that. A lot of pro teams wanted to know how fast I was going to be. And this was my chance to put some of those questions to rest. Fortunately, I did and I got my opportunity.’’
Maragos signed as an undrafted free agent with the San Francisco 49ers and opened the season on the practice squad. “It was good for me – kind of like a redshirt year in college,’’ he said.
Near the end of the year, he was promoted to the 49ers roster. “My first career appearance and first career tackle came against the Green Bay,’’ he said. “Can’t write a better script than that.’’
Bill Nagy would like to write his own happy ending; especially if he has to follow the same free agent path to the NFL. “I’ll do whatever,’’ Nagy said, “whatever anyone asks me to do.’’
Versatility is an asset. Nagy has played every offensive line position at Wisconsin. Last week, he was informed that the Chicago Bears were intrigued about his potential as a blocking tight end.
Chicago offensive coordinator Mike Martz and line coach Mike Tice were both present Wednesday. Following the formal drills, they worked out quarterback Scott Tolzien and Nagy.
“I’ll do anything I can to make an NFL team,’’ Nagy said about making a full-time transition to tight end. “It felt pretty natural (catching passes). I got to show off some of my athleticism.’’
UW offensive guard John Moffitt has seen enough of Nagy to know that he has some tools. “Bill is a very good lineman,’’ Moffitt emphasized. “You could see today he’s very strong and athletic.’’
Moffitt, like Nagy, is hoping to sell the scouts on his versatility to play guard or center. While he’s expected to be drafted in the early rounds, he knows he has to come up with some answers, too.
Historically, the Badgers have prided themselves on knocking people off the ball with the biggest offensive line in the Big Ten. “So I think they question, ‘Are you an athlete?’’’ Moffitt said.
That’s why the individual workouts with NFL teams will be particularly important for Moffitt. “You want to show them that you can move around and you have some athleticism,’’ he said.
After a strong combine, J.J. Watt didn’t have much to show or much to do Wednesday. “When I got a chance to show what I was all about at the combine, I think I turned some heads,’’ he said.
Watt conceded that some NFL teams are trying to figure out if he’s better suited for a 4-3 defense or a 3-4 defense. “I can play in either defense,’’ he said without naming a preference.
Watt is represented by one of the league’s super agents Tom Condon, who was among the spectators Wednesday at the McClain Facility. Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin, Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy and Packers general manager Ted Thompson were also on hand for the workout.
“It’s what you dream about as a kid,’’ Watt said.
John Clay sounded pleased with his 40 times (4.73 and 4.77) knowing that he’s still learning how to carry less weight on his frame. He’s down to 233. “Being light I have to adjust my body to it,’’ he said.
Working out in familiar surroundings was a “stress reliever’’ according to Clay. “It’s up to me to prove to whatever team that wants me that I’m going to stay in the 230s and not get bigger,’’ he said
Jay Valai has as much to prove as anyone. “My health, my size,’’ said the UW safety listing the question marks. “But you can’t question heart. If I have to prove my worth, I’m willing to do that.’’
Like everyone else at Pro Signing Day, he had one wish.
“All I want is an opportunity,’’ Valai said.