After his first year at North Carolina State University, Chris Hawthorne felt the need to transfer. The Raleigh, N.C., native said he needed a fresh start.
“Out of personal and professional necessity, I felt I needed to grow up a little bit and be challenged,” Hawthorne said.
He transferred to the University of Minnesota, where he spent three seasons as kicker for the football team and earned a bachelor’s degree in business and marketing over the span of three-and-a-half years.
A year ago, former defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman was on track to be the first University of Minnesota player selected in the first round of the NFL Draft since 2006.
Hageman, however, slipped to the fifth pick of the second round, extending Minnesota’s first-round drought for yet another year.
But it seems like the streak will only last one more month, as former Gophers tight end Maxx Williams’ chances of being a first-round pick seems increasingly promising with every new mock draft release.
When Mitch Leidner began spring practice for the Gophers last year, he had only passed for 619 yards in limited reps.
But now — after a completed redshirt sophomore season in which he was Minnesota’s emotional leader and played in nearly every game — he seemed much more poised at this year’s spring practice start on Tuesday.
“It feels a lot different. I feel a lot more comfortable,” Leidner said. “By now, I feel really confident in our offense.”
Cedric Thompson sensed that NFL scouts saw his perceived lack of athleticism as a weakness. But at Minnesota’s pro day on Monday, he showed them exactly why it might be a strength.
The former Gophers defensive back exceeded expectations in the 40-yard dash with a blazing time of 4.37 seconds. After that, Thompson went to the vertical jump where he showed the 22 NFL teams represented that he can leap more than 40 inches.