Former Colorado wide receiver Scotty McKnight might have made himself an NFL draft pick today with an impressive and somewhat surprising performance in front of representatives of at least 19 franchises at CU pro timing day.
McKnight had some help from his best friend from childhood -- New York Jets starting quarterback Mark Sanchez -- who threw passes to him during the portion of the session in which scouts were able to grade McKnight's route running and pass catching. He didn't drop a ball and proved to be faster than most believed him to be ahead of time.
First-year coach Jon Embree and most of his staff were on hand to watch along with many current and former Buffs. Embree, who spent the past five years in the NFL and has plenty of experience evaluating college prospects, said he was impressed by McKnight.
"I thought he made some money today," Embree said. "I thought he put himself in position to get drafted. I think he's a guy who people are going to be happy they have him.
"... I'd be shocked if, A, he didn't get drafted and, B, he didn't have a career in the league.
New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez gets ready to throw to Scotty McKnight during receiver drills at the University of Colorado on Wednesday. McKnight and Sanchez are best friends who grew up together. National Football League scouts came to the CU campus to test former CU football players for the NFL draft. ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )
It was easily the most well-attended pro timing day in Boulder since 2002 with tackle Nate Solder and cornerback Jimmy Smith expected to be among the first 40 players selected in the April draft and cornerback Jalil Brown expected to be drafted at some point.
McKnight was one of seven former Buffs who worked out for scouts, joining defensive lineman Marquez Herrod, tight end Luke Walters, longsnapper Joe Silipo and the other three.
Solder, Smith and Brown all were invited to the NFL Scouting Combine last month in Indianapolis where they participated in all the sprints, drills, lifts and jumps. Each of the three opted to participate in only a handful of those same tests today as well as some position specific drills.
But McKnight was the story of the day becuase he returned to Boulder this week after several months working out in Orange County, Calif., hoping to prove himself beyond the record-setting numbers he produced during his four seasons on the gridiron in Boulder.
McKnight ran three 40-yard sprints and each was timed at less than 4.5 seconds, which was perhaps the most eye-opening part of the day for scouts, who might have thought McKnight was too slow for the pros. He also broad jumped more than 10 feet and bench pressed 225 pounds 13 times, 11 more times than he could do at the end of last season.
With anxiety built up for the day, McKnight spent a near sleepless night at a local hotel. He was up at 5:30 a.m. and couldn't wait to get to the Dal Ward Center and begin his day of tests and interviews.
"I thought I did great," McKnight said after the workout portion of his day was over. "...I think I did everything I possibly could to erase any doubts about speed or athleticism. I think that's out there that I can compete with anyone in those phases.
"And then creating separation and catching the ball in traffic, I think I answered that today. I feel like I did get myself drafted."
Embree and former Buff linebacker Matt Russell, a scout for the Denver Broncos, said it was beneficial for McKnight to have Sanchez throwing to him but not because Sanchez somehow enhanced McKnight's ability.
Both men said the familiarity with Sanchez probably helped McKnight relax and perform. They said it also helped scouts get a better evaluation having a quarterback participating who could make all the necessary throws.
Sanchez said it was "a no-brainer" decision for him to travel to Boulder and participate with McKnight, who has been his best friend since they played Pop Warner football together growing up in Southern California. Sanchez obviously has a biased opinion, but he believes his friend did very well.
"I don't think it could have gone any better for him," Sanchez said. "His drills were great. His numbers were awesome. ... All the stuff that he's been working towards these last few months, it all just came to fruition today. He deserves it because he did a great job this entire process."