Colorado offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy has answered hundreds of questions from dozens of NFL scouts over the past six months about running back Rodney Stewart.
A healthy percentage of those inquiries have related to Stewart's size and ability to play at the pro level at 5-foot-6, 180 pounds.
"I tell them to put on the tape," Bieniemy said Thursday during the Buffs' pro timing day. "The only thing they won't like is his size. Some teams will never get past that. All he needs is one team to like him."
Bieniemy, who spent five seasons in the NFL as a coach and nine seasons as an undersized running back himself, said there is a lot to like about Stewart, who finished his career at the Buffs' second all-time leading rusher behind Bieniemy. Bieniemy said Stewart proved over four seasons playing in the Big 12 and Pac-12 Conferences that he could play with the best despite his small stature.
What does it all mean?
How meaningful is pro day? It depends on the player.
For a guy coming off an injury or a player who might have questions about his character, it can be big because it is an opportunity for scouts to see prospects up close and personal and also to get to know them in interviews.
But most scouts say they base their reports mostly on what players have done on the field throughout their careers.
Players such as Anthony Perkins and Travis Sandersfeld can use the opportunity to show scouts they are healthy and on top of their game after suffering injuries last fall. Players who didn't get on the field much in college aren't likely to earn pro contracts because of a good day running sprints in their underwear or lifting weights.
Stewart barely missed becoming the 27th player in NCAA history to rush for more than 3,000 yards and produce more than 1,000 receiving yards in a career when he was injured in his final game at Utah. He also returned punts and kickoffs and Bieniemy said if CU coaches weren't worried about Stewart being injured, he would have been their best option as a gunner on the punt team last season as well.
Stewart worked out for 15 NFL teams and one from the Canadian Football League on Thursday and came away feeling like he could have done a little better here and there but generally pleased with his performance.
"It was definitely fun for me," Stewart said. "I just love football. Working out is fun for me and something I wish I could do forever."
There aren't many examples of players with Stewart's size making it in the NFL. Perhaps the best is former Kansas State standout Darren Sproles, who was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the fourth round in 2005 and now plays for the New Orleans Saints. Sproles is the shortest player in the NFL at 5-6.
Stewart said he didn't run his best time in the 40-yard dash, a 4.54, but he said he didn't have enough time to warm up between the portion of pro day in the Dal Ward weight room and the practice bubble. Stewart said he is looking forward to trying to change minds and win over a new group of coaches this spring and summer.
Former CU quarterback Tyler Hansen said he thought he added to a solid week at the East-West Shrine game in January with a good outing on Thursday. He threw to receivers for about 20 minutes after going through the speed and strength tests.
Hansen said he only wanted two throws back by the end of the day. He believes he helped himself.
Did you know?
Former CU linebacker Chad Brown bench pressed 225 pounds only 11 times during his pro day in 1993. It didn't prevent him from going on to a 15-year NFL career with three different franchises. He played in the Super Bowl and was a three-time pro bowl selection.
"It went real well," Hansen said. "I thought all of my numbers were what I expected. I ran a 4.7 and all the drills were kind of what I was doing prior to this. Throwing-wise, I missed two throws, two throws that I want back and want to do over, but that's OK. I threw a lot of balls."
Hansen said he will continue to workout and prepare over the next two months as if he will be in camp with one of the 32 NFL franchises this spring and summer. He said he wanted to show scouts that he can make all the throws and that he has athleticism not all of his peers possess.
"Right now, I'm hearing an NFL camp," Hansen said of where he expects to be after the draft. "I just want an opportunity."
Looking for a fit
Josh Hartigan was the Buffs best pass rusher the past two seasons and is hoping that will earn him an opportunity with an NFL team. Hartigan is undersized for the defensive line in the NFL. He is best suited to a 3-4 defense where he can rush the passer as an outside linebacker.
"I think my numbers could have been a little bit better, but I'm happy with how I performed," Hartigan said. "I came out to try to do my best, do what I can and put myself in a better situation, give myself an opportunity to get some looks from some teams."
When CU coach Jon Embree was making the jump from his college career at CU to the NFL, there was no pro timing day. No, it's not true that Embree and his teammates wore leather helmets, but it was long enough ago that there was a team in Los Angeles.
Embree said he worked out for 22 different NFL teams individually in spring 1987. Each had a representative call him and schedule the workouts when they were in town. Embree was selected in the sixth round by the Los Angeles Rams.
He played two seasons in the league before an elbow injury ended his career when he was with the Seattle Seahawks.
"It's an exciting time, because all these kids at some point -- eight, nine, 10 years old -- had a dream of playing in the NFL. This is their day, so to speak, of showing the guys in the NFL they're worthy of an opportunity." Embree on pro timing day.