Benjy Egel is a journalism freshman and Mustang Daily sports columnist.
Cal Poly has recently produced several NFL players, including names such as Chris Gocong, Ramses Barden and Asa Jackson. The trio could soon be joined by a new herd of Mustangs.
Running back Deonte Williams, wide receiver Brandon Michalkiewicz, quarterback Andre Broadous, fullback Quentin Greenlaw, linebacker Kennith Jackson and cornerback Nico Molino are all under the microscope for the NFL Draft on April 25-27.
“My bottom-line thing is we try to be dream makers, not dream breakers,” Cal Poly football head coach Tim Walsh said. “I think the guys that have made it give our guys some confidence that they can do it.”
All six put their athleticism on display during Cal Poly’s Pro Day, when scouts from the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders came to San Luis Obispo in search of new talent.
Both teams declined to let their scouts release pre-draft opinions, but Walsh anticipates Williams is the most likely to catch a club’s attention.
“I think Deonte has got a chance to be a sixth, seventh rounder or a priority free agent,” Walsh said. “(Getting signed) right after the draft isn’t a bad deal either, because then he gets to pick the team.”
Most of the other Mustangs hope to be picked up as free agents, though all want to hear their name called in the seventh round, or sooner.
Others could move up north to the Canadian Football League (CFL), where competition is slightly less fierce and playing time should be easier to find.
“NFL, CFL, that’s what I’m looking at,” Michalkiewicz said. “Obviously football is my dream, so I’m going to pursue that to the fullest.”
Even though Molino came to Cal Poly as a walk-on, he always saw himself as a future pro. That faith was reaffirmed after gaining a scholarship before his senior year.
Now Molino is ready for his close-up, with agent Mike Swenson by his side. He also hit up Asa Jackson, who used to line up across the field from Molino as the other Cal Poly corner before he was drafted last year.
“I’ve been talking to Asa a lot,” Molino said. “We’ve become really close friends since I came to Cal Poly. He’s been giving me advice on the process, and we just talk about each thing that’s coming up.
The Mustangs’ run-heavy offense forced the 5-foot-10 Michalkiewicz to establish himself as a blocker, but he kept the soft hands and route precision of a star receiver.
His Pro Day numbers caught the attention of NFL teams across the nation, so Michalkiewicz showed up again at the Los Angeles Regional Combine and Atlanta Regional Combine.
The Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars and St. Louis Rams were particularly impressed, he said.
“I (set a personal record) in my broad jump, I actually got 9 feet, 2 inches,” Michalkiewicz said. “But it was really in my routes. I got six routes, was thrown to six times and I caught all six balls.”
Jackson ran the 40-yard dash in 4.74 seconds, a time on par with the more famous linebacker prospect Manti Te’o. Plus, Jackson doesn’t invent his girlfriends.
Williams led the Mustangs in the 40 with a 4.52 during the Pro Day. Greenlaw leapt 9 feet, 9 inches in the broad jump, and Michalkiewicz had top marks in the 60-yard shuttle, short shuttle and vertical jump.
With the NFL’s recent preference for mobile quarterbacks such as Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson, Broadous may get his shot. He passed for 18 touchdowns last year and ran for nine more.
Molino and Michalkiewicz, who both grew up near Sacramento, were training together for the draft before Molino began working out in the Bay Area and later hired a speed specialist.
Michalkiewicz turned to Scott Collie, who played in the CFL and is the father of former Indianapolis Colts receiver Austin Collie.
The NorCal natives could have trained with Williams as well, but he was with Velocity Sports Performance in Redondo Beach before the Pro Day. He returned home to Sacramento after conducting a private workout for the Raiders.
Oakland has been Williams’ favorite team since he began dreaming of the NFL as an 8-year-old, he said. Now that the dream could come true, he has had to back off the fandom.
“I grew up a Raiders fan, but looking at the business aspect of it now as I get older, I’m going wherever they select me,” he said. “Whichever team chooses me to be part of their organization, I’m going to be happy.”