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Dri Archer, Roosevelt Nix and eight other Kent State seniors took a major step toward realizing their dreams by displaying their skills and talents for scouts representing 11 different NFL teams during Pro Day on Thursday.
Archer, the Golden Flashes' scintillating speedster wide receiver/running back/returner who scored 34 touchdowns in his last two seasons at KSU, was the hottest commodity on hand after dazzling scouts at the NFL Combine last month with his near-record 4.26 time in the 40.
Archer did not run the 40 on Thursday, because it simply wasn't necessary.
"I was satisfied (with my time)," said Archer, whose time was easily tops at the Combine. "I didn't want to come out here and try to run faster and pull something. I felt like I could run faster, but I can't really be too disappointed in myself."
While scouts know Archer can flat-out fly, they still question his ability to catch passes and punts. Those skills will be required as he tries to forge an NFL career at just 5-foot-8, 173 pounds.
After running through various position drills at the Kent State Field House, scouts had Archer go outside into Dix Stadium to field punts on a cold, blustery first day of spring that felt much more like mid-winter.
"(The weather) was ridiculous," said Archer. "After a while I warmed up a little bit, then it started snowing. … They were telling me I did pretty well, especially for the conditions."
Among the contingent watching Archer field punts was former Kent State star quarterback Joshua Cribbs, who went on to become one of the top returners in NFL history. Cribbs quietly critiqued Archer's efforts at snaring punts that were being blown in all directions by the wind, and even went on the field to provide instruction at one point.
"(Cribbs) gave me a lot of advice, working on little things like catching punts, telling me what teams are gonna be looking at me," said Archer. "He was helping me out a lot. We had a good conversation."
Archer's stock rose thanks to his 40 time at the Combine, which threatened Chris Johnson's record of 4.24. Some experts have him going as high as the late third round. He has his first individual workout scheduled for today with Miami, and also has dates with New England, Arizona and Indianapolis already on the docket.
Archer, a Florida native who has been training in Orlando, refuses to dwell on what may happen in the draft.
"I just want to see my mom smile on draft day," he said. "That's all."
Nix couldn't help but grin after Thursday's workout, which the former four-time First-Team All-Mid-American Conference defensive tackle spent convincing scouts he could play linebacker or even fullback.
Nix relied primarily on his incredible quickness to get past linemen at the college level, but his 5-foot-11, 260-pound frame is simply not big enough to play on the line in the NFL. He still believes there's a place for him on an NFL roster because of his athleticism and motor, which he showed off Thursday.
"Today I opened a lot of eyes," said Nix. "A lot of people wanted to see if I could move, coming from the defensive line to linebacker, and I think I proved that. I definitely got some good feedback. A lot of people were real happy with how I did today, and I'm real happy with myself. It was good, a very successful day."
New England in particular is interested in seeing Nix at fullback according to an inside source. He caught several passes during Thursday's workout and seemed comfortable doing so.
"I played fullback in high school," said Nix. "I'm an athlete. I think I can do whatever. I truly believe that."
Other Flashes who took part in Pro Day were cornerback Darius Polk, who also impressed scouts according to sources, along with safety Luke Wollet, offensive lineman Pat McShane, defensive linemen Andrew Christopher and Mark Fackler, wide receiver Tyshon Goode, defensive back Fabrice Pratt and tight end Tim Erjavec.
From now until the 2014 NFL Draft, which will be held May 8-10, they'll be doing everything in their power to be prepared if and when that phone rings.
"I'm definitely gonna be with my family (during the draft), just waiting for a phone call," said Archer. "I'm not really nervous. I'm just doing what I've been doing the last 22 years of my life."
QUICK-HITTERS: Eleven NFL teams sent scouts to Kent State on Thursday, including the Cleveland Browns, who had two representatives on hand. The other teams present were Cincinnati, San Diego, Oakland, New England, Pittsburgh, Houston, New York Giants, Indianapolis, Miami and New Orleans. ... The Raiders sent special teams coordinator Bobby April to scout Archer. Cribbs is a friend of April, who coached him in preseason camp at Oakland last season before he was waived by the Raiders. … Cribbs said he plans to play in the NFL this season. He remains the property of the New York Jets, but has yet to pass a physical since suffering a torn pectoral muscle while making a tackle on special teams in an early December loss to Miami. … Archer said he doesn't regret returning to Kent State for his senior season, even though his production dropped dramatically mostly due to an ankle injury he suffered during the 2013 opener. "Everything happens for a reason," he said. "When I look back on it I wouldn't have done anything different, I still would have came back for my senior year. Injuries are just a part of the game. I just gotta live with it." … Archer is likely the only Kent State player who will be drafted, although Nix has an outside shot. Players that go undrafted are free to sign with any team. Offensive lineman Josh Kline did just that last season and wound up latching on with the Patriots. "You think about getting drafted as a kid, so I mean that's an accomplishment in itself and I would love to be drafted," said Nix. "Sometimes you gotta face the facts and it's not in the cards, so whether I get to pick where I go or somebody picks me, I want to be playing. It doesn't matter to me."