To New Hampshire product Casey DeAndrade, this spring's training experience was a bit stressful. Think about it … you have about 10 weeks to prepare for one afternoon, one Pro Day.
You can't mess it up. If you weren't invited to the NFL Combine, your Pro Day could be your only shot to prove yourself when it comes to the measurables. You have to be perfect.
"There's always those nerves," DeAndrade told HERO Sports. "Literally, it's one day. It's not like a game with 50 plays and you can make up for a missed assignment. It's the 40-yard dash, and everybody is wondering if you're really that fast. If you don't run a good time, that'd be very disappointing."
Don't worry, the UNH standout did just fine. He credits his work with Chip Smith Performance Systems in the Atlanta area for getting him in good position for the Pro Day. He hopped on a plane out of Boston and headed to Georgia to improve his draft stock. And now? He's been playing the excruciating waiting game — for weeks on end. There have been phone calls and workouts, but of course the NFL teams that like him have their best poker faces on. So, the clock just seems louder right now when it ticks.
His 4.45-second time in the 40-yard dash, 22 reps on the 225-pound bench press, and his quick numbers in the 3-cone and other drills have caught eyes.
"It can be frustrating … since (the Pro Day) I've been either up at school or back home getting worked out," DeAndrade said. "At school I can get the most out of it. I'm lucky enough that the coaches still want me around here."
Teammates Dalton Crossan, Andrew Lauderdale and Jordan Powell all have been working to improve their draft potential too, and UNH may have several of them on contract within the month. Since working out at UNH and doing on-the-field drill work at Dartmouth's Pro Day, DeAndrade's has had contact with the 49ers, the Seahawks and even the local favorite — the Patriots.
"When the Patriots call, you answer," DeAndrade said.
It's pretty impressive that DeAndrade is on the verge of being in an NFL camp. Coming out of high school, he pondered playing baseball. He battled back and forth before realizing he loved football just that much more, and then began to plan for what he'd do at the next level. Early on, he did receive interest from Boston College and UConn, but as recruiting wore on it was New Hampshire that showed him the most love — and his only scholarship offer. Just like every FCS player (does this ring a bell?) he had a chip on his shoulder because of that. Obviously, today, he wouldn't have it any other way.
"I was lucky enough to play right away here, and I didn't look back from there," DeAndrade said. "I was always on the return teams, punts and kicks, and just doing whatever coach told me to do. It didn't matter what, that's what I'm most proud of … Being a small-school guy, I think special teams is going to be my way in the door. It'll be the key for me. I'll show them I can run down on kickoffs or punts, whether it is as a returner or holding up a block. Then maybe that opens up the door to get in on the defensive side of the ball."
All of this has gotten him in position to be a day-three draft pick. Some draft sites have him as high as the sixth round, while others consider him a priority free agent. No matter what, he's in the discussion.
"It's humbling," DeAndrade said. "I try not to look at that stuff, but obviously some friends from home and my family send me texts about it. Just seeing my name mentioned is amazing. It's just on paper so of course it doesn't mean anything, but hopefully the real deal comes at the end of April, and we'll see what happens from there."
DEANDRADE'S CAREER AT UNH
2016 – 71 tackles, 3 INTs, 0.5 TFL, 10 passes broken up
2015 – 76 tackles, 2 INTs, 7 TFL, 10 passes broken up
2014 – 69 tackles, 1 INT, 3.5 TFL, 13 passes broken up
2013 – 69 tackles, 3 INTs, 3 TFL, 20 passes broken up
2016 – 30.1 YPR on 14 kick returns, long of 91
2015 – 1 kick return
2014 – 20.5 YPR on 13 kick returns, long of 34
2013 – 2 kick returns
2016 – 7.0 YPR on 22 punt returns, long of 28
2015 – 11.3 YPR on 20 punt returns, long of 90, 1 TD
2014 – 9.1 YPR on 22 punt returns, long of 39
2013 – 4.8 YPR on 9 punt returns, long of 26