By Greg Ostendorf
AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn has a chance to have the most draft picks in school history come April, and with 16 players participating in Friday's Pro Day, it was no surprise that scouts from all 32 NFL teams were on hand to evaluate the group.
"It's important," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "I think it says a lot about our program and the foundation that we've built the last five years. (There are) a lot of very talented young men out here that are going to be very successful at the next level and represent Auburn the right way and represent their families the right way.
"When you recruit these guys and they have a dream and they get a chance to show these scouts what they can do, it's always a really special day."
The most eyes were likely on running back Kerryon Johnson, the SEC offensive player of the year, who performed well at the NFL combine last weekend but chose not to run the 40-yard dash. Instead, he waited to run it at Pro Day, and with unofficial times of 4.58 and 4.54, he reached the personal goal that he set for himself.
"A 4.5 or lower," Johnson said. "If I can get in the 4.4s, whoop-de-doo. But 4.5, it couldn't be anything above that. That was my goal. That's what I've been working on for three months, and I just had to come out here and prove it today."
Johnson also stayed after and went through various position drills for the scouts.
But while it was a big day for Johnson and others like Carlton Davis, who ran a 4.47 unofficially, the NFL teams had seen them the weekend before at the combine. Friday's Pro Day was more significant for the group of athletes who weren't invited to Indianapolis.
Tre' Williams wanted to show scouts he could move. Austin Golson wanted to show off his athleticism. Tray Matthews is looking to fit the mold of the new safety/linebacker hybrid at the next level, and it was important to test well across the board. Others like Casey Dunn, Darius James and Jason Smith wanted to prove that they are capable of making an NFL roster.
"It's just another opportunity," Williams said. "I was kind of worried about not getting invited to the combine, but a lot of my family, they were behind me. They were telling me to stay focused. Today is the big opportunity, and I took full advantage of it."
"I thought it was a great experience," added Golson. "Coming back and just competing with these guys one last time, it was an awesome feeling. I really enjoyed it."
Some of the highlights from that group included James putting up a team high 30 bench reps, Matthews jumping 35.5 inches in the vertical jump and over 10 feet in the broad jump, and Williams, who had a solid all-around day.
"It was an honor, a huge honor," Williams said. "Just being worked out by a Hall-of-Famer and just everything he's put in at Auburn and in the NFL, it's unbelievable."
That's the other part of Pro Day that goes beyond the numbers. There were former Auburn players like Greene, Corey Grant, Joshua Holsey and Peyton Barber in attendance Friday, and this was also likely the last time that this group of Tigers will all be together before the NFL draft when they will go their separate ways.
But regardless of where they go, they will always be part of the Auburn family.
"It's kind of cool coming back with the guys you played with, just having that last time working together," former offensive lineman Braden Smith said. "It's just a good time to come out and cheer on our teammates. Everybody wants everybody to do well."
"I wouldn't trade (my time at Auburn) for anything," added Johnson. "People come to this school year in and year out, and they keep talking about family. I came back Wednesday and seeing the team and these guys, we're doing the same things that we did before I left. It's like I never left. I wouldn't trade it for the world."
Greg Ostendorf is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: