Former Gophers quarterback MarQueis Gray laced pass after pass to open receivers Monday, but for a rare time in his career, he wasn’t trying to throw touchdowns.
NFL coaches and scouts watched Gray complete various drills Monday at the University of Minnesota’s Pro Day, wary of Gray’s promising future but inefficient past.
“We were really looking … to see if he had the natural skills to be able to throw all of the necessary throws,” said Craig Johnson, the Minnesota Vikings’ quarterbacks coach.
Gray was one of a handful of former Gophers players who worked out for representatives from 13 NFL teams Monday at the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex.
Other prospects from smaller colleges also attended the workout, including former Northern Iowa wide receiver Terrell Sinkfield, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.19 seconds, one of the fastest times ever measured.
The prospects tried to impress the representatives through a series of drills designed to test speed, strength and explosiveness, among other traits that help players succeed in the NFL.
Pro Day offers no guarantees, but it gives athletes one last chance to impress scouts before the NFL draft in April. If a team likes what it sees from a prospect, it can either draft the player or attempt to sign him to an undrafted free agent contract.
But the odds of an undrafted free agent making an NFL team’s opening-day 53-man roster aren’t high.
The Vikings, for example, signed 15 undrafted free agents following the 2012 NFL Draft, but just two of them are still with the team.
Preparing for the draft
Gray was inefficient as a passer throughout his career at Minnesota, but he hasn’t given up the idea of playing quarterback professionally.
His reps at quarterback Monday earned the praise of Johnson.
“I thought he really moved around well,” Johnson said. “The ball came out of his hand very sharp. I thought he really put good touch in the long ball.”
Gray’s agent, Mitch Chargo of AMI Sports, said he is optimistic a team will draft Gray.
“The question of what slot or what round is always up for grabs,” Chargo said. “But all indications are good that he will be drafted.”
Gray played through an ankle injury during his senior season, which he said he re-injured during the Gophers’ loss in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas on Dec. 28.
He spent the month of January training in Florida, where he said he worked on his explosiveness.
The NFL invited Gray to its scouting combine in Indianapolis, Ind., on Feb. 23-26. Gray, the only Gophers player invited to the combine, ran through drills and physical tests with more than 300 of the NFL’s top prospects. He said he tried to keep the mood light during the four days of constant exertion.
“I really didn’t have to have anything to worry about at the combine,” he said. “So I just went out there, had fun, tried to make a few jokes and get some of those guys who are considered first-round to lighten up.”
His light-hearted attitude seemed to pay off.
Gray ran the fourth-fastest 40-yard dash among all quarterbacks at the combine (4.73 seconds), though he said the ankle injury slowed him. Gray improved his 40-yard dash time to 4.67 seconds Monday.
Gray said he’d ideally like to play quarterback in the NFL, but he also said he is willing to play wide receiver or tight end. He played tight end in the Texas vs. the Nation All-Star Game on Feb. 2 but did not catch any passes.
Gray worked out Monday as both a pass-catcher and a quarterback. He said he will continue to work out for NFL teams in the next month as a way to improve his draft stock.
“As long as I’m on a roster and I’m playing and the coaches like what I’m doing,” he said, “that’s all good for me.”