Penn State's Stephon Morris was admittedly disappointed when he was not invited to the NFL Combine in February. He responded by turning in an eye-popping performance at PSU's Pro Day for scouts on campus Monday, as Morris did more to improve his NFL stock than any of the other Nittany Lions who worked out.
Morris was hand-timed in the 40-yard dash anywhere from the high 4.1- to 4.3-second range by NFL scouts in the Holuba Hall. His official time was 4.35 seconds.
But it did not stop there. He also broad-jumped 10-0 and uncorked a 35.5-inch vertical. At 5-foot-8, 188 pounds, he cranked out an impressive 18 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.
His 40 was faster than any posted by corners at the Combine. Only two corners at the Combine benched more than Morris did Monday.
Morris was visibly relieved after the strong showing. And with good reason.
“A lot of stress these past three months, a lot of nerves,” he said. “Especially last night. I couldn't get a lot of sleep like I wanted. I'd fall asleep and wake back up every 30 minutes.”
So how did he perform so well?
“It just went to adrenaline,” he said. “I've been doing this since I was 6 years old. I've been working out probably over 10,000 times in my life. This just happened to be the workout that makes or breaks you.”
As impressive as his numbers were, Morris could have done even better. He felt a tweak in his hamstring on his second 40 attempt and was asked to run a third, which he did. But with the leg bothering him, he skipped the three-cone drill, NFL shuttle and 60-yard shuttle.
He did, however, do defensive back drills against quarterback Matt McGloin.
“I thought I did really well,” Morris said. “Matt McGloin was throwing the balls extra hard, so I definitely dropped some I should have caught. But as far as showing my movement and showing my hips in transition and things like that, I think I impressed the coaches.”
Morris is living proof that Penn State's NFL prospects need not leave campus to prepare for Pro Days. A true senior, he is scheduled to graduate with a degree in telecommunications in May. Rather than delay that to workout somewhere else, he remained in school and trained with Penn State strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald.
Asked if it was difficult taking classes and preparing for Pro Day, Morris said it was not.
“Coach Fitz did a good job,” Morris said. “He went through everybody's schedule, (and) saw what was the best time to lift and get massages and everything. I had plenty of time. I'm not taking that many classes, so it was kind of simple.”
He made things look kind of simple while working out for the scouts, too.
“I just wanted to show that these last three months that I was working my butt off,” Morris said. “And when I got out there to run, which I was most confident in, I wanted to show them I have NFL speed -- and elite NFL speed.”
So now the pressure of preparing for Pro Day is off. But Morris already has something else about which to worry. The NFL Draft takes place in New York April 25-27. Did he do enough to convince a team to spend a pick on him? Will he have to take the free-agent route into the league?
More sleepless nights are surely in his future.
“I stressed about Pro Day for three months,” he said. “I missed the Combine by two votes, so that was very stressful. I guess I've got to stress about something else now, and that's whether I'm going to be drafted or even get a shot as an NFL free agent.
“It's a new stress,” he added. “But it's good that I got the workout out of the way.”