THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY Enlarge | Buy This Photo
As other prospects began the morning trying to dazzle NFL scouts at the vertical jump station, Eric Page paced alone in the background, focused on making the most of a second opportunity.
Page, the University of Toledo star receiver who is bypassing his senior season to turn pro, had one objective in mind Tuesday morning at the school's pro day. The Springfield graduate wanted to improve upon his 40-yard dash from the NFL Combine and dispel any rumblings he might lack the necessary foot speed to play at the next level. He seemed to do that.
Depending on whose stop watch was referenced, Page finished the drill in anywhere from 4.51 to 4.55 seconds, trumping the disappointing 4.6 he registered in Indianapolis. Results were kept private, but one NFL scout who wished to not be identified informed The Blade he timed Page at 4.5.
Posting a better mark wasn't "the end all, be all," Page said, but trimming even a tenth of a second could bolster his appeal for April's draft. Representatives of roughly 20 NFL teams convened at Fetterman Training Center to get a closer peek at Page, Desmond Marrow, Kenny Stafford, and other draft-eligible players.
"I think at the combine, you feel a little nervous going into it. You're out of your element," Page said. "Just coming back to pro day, our teammates are out here rooting us on and I felt a little more comfortable. ... I did real well."
Page ran receiving routes and caught passes along with other position players, but he did not compete in other drills, choosing to stand firm with his combine results. He projects to be selected in the mid to late rounds, though his agent, Sunny Shah, said the evaluation process is still early.
"We all know he's a little faster than what he ran at the combine," said Shah, who is based out of New York. "He was running much faster during training and he felt like he could run a better time, and he did today."
Scouts on hand told Shah they were impressed by Page's crispness in position workouts, when he ran various patterns and caught passes from Cincinnati Bengals quarterback and former UT great Bruce Gradkowski. Page failed to catch just one ball, on a deep corner route that Gradkowski overthrew him by a whisker.
"I expect myself to make that catch," Page said. "Bruce threw a great ball, and I have to come down with that."
Aside from Page, the unidentified scout was intrigued by at least two other Rockets. He clocked Kenny Stafford at a blistering 4.37 to 4.38 seconds in the 40, which is faster than all but three receivers at the combine. Marrow, a sixth-year senior cornerback, "had a good day," the scout said. Marrow agreed. He was informed he posted a 4.47 in the 40 and 6.4 seconds in the 3-cone drill. Marrow recorded 19 bench reps of 225 pounds, which is 13 more than he could do when he started training two months ago.
"I'm just holding it in right now, but I'm really excited," Marrow said.
Pretty much the entire UT graduating class participated. So did Isaiah Ballard, who played his senior year at Findlay after UT dismissed him from its football program last May after he was arrested on felonious assault charges. Ballard, who finished with 96 tackles and was named first team All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, said he didn't feel added pressure to perform Tuesday because of his status as a Division II player. He recorded 21 bench-press repetitions and is confident he did well in other areas.
"I gave it my all and competed how I know how," Ballard, a Rogers graduate, said. "Hopefully I'll be invited somewhere to play."
Page, who broke numerous records at UT, is the safest bet of the bunch to be drafted. He held interviews with a handful of teams at the combine and hopes to conduct private workouts in the upcoming weeks. His improved 40 time could generate further interest.
"Eric's film will speak volumes, especially with what he's been able to do in his college career," Shah said. "When you put in a game film of his, it tells you exactly what kind of player he is."
Contact Ryan Autullo at: email@example.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @RyanAutullo.