DURHAM — Around 17 former student-athletes from North Carolina Central, Shaw and Wingate participated in NFL Pro Day on Monday at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium.
With eight NFL scouts in attendance, the players went through the usual procedures — measurements, jumps, bench press, 40-yard dash. After the football players, including 10 former Eagles, wrapped up the four-hour workout, the scouts needed to see a little more. On one end of the field a scout from the Chargers called for former Eagles’ quarterback Malcolm Bell. On the other end, another scout shouted out for Freddy Henry-Ajudua and his younger brother, Emmanuel.
Freddy, an All-Conference selection as a defensive end, and Bell, the former record-setting signal caller, were the main attractions for the scouts. It was actually the second chance for both players to put on in front of the scouts. Bell participated in his hometown last week, going through drills at the University of Richmond’s Pro Day, while the elder Henry-Ajudua participated a combine last week in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Having gone through the poking and prodding a week earlier helped ease their nerves, so the former NCCU standouts just wanted to give their potential future employers one last look.
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“Some of my numbers were better (in New Orleans) than here,” Henry-Ajudua said. “My change of direction and 40 were better here.”
Change of direction will be important for Henry-Ajudua because a position switch might be in his future. He started 10 games at defensive end for the Eagles in 2016, having a breakout final season, finishing with 13.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. However, standing at 6’2” and weighing 242 pounds, Henry-Ajudua would have to put on some weight to play defensive end at the pro level. That’s why the scouts wanted to see the Durham native play in space, putting him through linebacker drills after everyone else finished their workouts. Henry-Ajudua, who has a soccer background, doesn’t have an issue at all with a position change.
“I don’t mind,” Henry-Ajudua said. “I’ll play it all. My trainer prepared me to play both.”
Freddy’s brother did play linebacker for N.C. Central, serving as a backup during his career in Durham. Emmanuel was there for a job interview just like everyone else, but he also served as a motivator, working out beside his big brother the entire time. Emmanuel also spent time helping Freddy through linebacker drills, showing him what it takes to play in space.
“Growing up our parents always made us do everything together,” Emmanuel said. “It was to motivate each other, that’s the way our parents raised us.”
Bell didn’t bench at Richmond’s Pro Day or in Durham, but he did test his vertical, broad jump and did all the field drills. After running the 40 and doing the the three-cone drill, the four-year starter showed the scouts want they came to see, putting that championship winning arm on display, throwing to a group of receivers for about 10 minutes. The scouts know Bell can throw - he passed for 2,431 yards and 17 scores - so they wanted to see him under center, taking drops. Bell worked exclusively from the shotgun while he played for N.C. Central.
“They just wanted to see if I could do a five step, seven step (drop) and stuff like that,” Bell said. “Me making that transition was real big for me, so it’s kind of paying off now.”
Through his agent, Bell said he’s been getting a lot of feedback from CFL teams. Bell measured in a 5’11” Monday, and despite the success of guys like fellow Richmond native Russell Wilson, and Drew Brees, making an NFL roster is an uphill battle at his height. Coming from the FCS level also makes it more of a challenge. He realizes all of that, but remains unphased.
“My tape does speak for itself,” Bell said. “But at the same time when you show it on film, but play at the FBS level, they are willing to take a chance on you. Me being 5’11” and from an FCS school, it’s kind of hard for them to get a true gage on how I will perform. But I just have to start out here, go through my steps and complete (passes) and hopefully they see something they like and I get invited to a mini-camp or something like that.”