Rutgers star wide receiver and top tier NFL draft prospect, Mohamed Sanu, woke up Wednesday knowing he needed to have a big bounce back performance during his Pro Day workout after disappointing both himself and scouts during his NFL combine workout last month. It was there in Indianapolis where Sanu ran a subpar 4.65 40-yard dash and left many NFL executives wondering if Sanu had the speed and agility deemed worthy of their first round draft selection.
When asked if he was disappointed in his combine performance, Sanu said, “Oh definitely, because I haven’t ran like that in a very long time. While I was training I was running 4.4’s consistently, so for me to see that up there was very disappointing but I knew that I had my pro day and I knew that I was going to do a lot better here.”
Sanu admitted that his out of character display at the combine could be contributed to not feeling well, which caused him to lose the typical bursts and jolts of speed we have grown accustomed to seeing from him on the banks of the Ol’ Raritan.
“I wasn’t feeling too well, I’m not going to lie to you guys, I wasn’t feeling too well,” said Sanu. “I was a little drained, a little tired, I didn’t have that pop that I normally do and I suffered my first couple times the first ten yards.”
Sanu added, “I was just drained, exhausted, I wasn’t myself. I didn’t really eat that well, so I learned from it. Sometimes athletes feel like they’re superhuman and feel like they’ll be alright, but we’re human.”
Whether it is justified or not is debatable, but a player’s clocked time in the 40 yard dash is usually the most scrutinized and analyzed event by scouts and general managers around the NFL. A 40 time will either build a players draft stock to a level it has never seen or it can force a players standing in the eyes of NFL decision makers to plummet. With the thoughts of his combine in the past, Sanu took to the field at the Rutgers indoor practice facility with his mind set solely on showing scouts representing 24 NFL franchises that he does indeed have the speed to be a receiver worthy of a first round draft selection.
The 6’2” 220lbs. Sanu, looking relaxed and refreshed turned in very impressive times of 4.41 and 4.48 in his first two attempt at the 40, times that should definitely bolster his draft stock, perhaps back into the first round.
When asked if he used his poor combine showing as added motivation to prove his critics wrong, Sanu responded, “Definitely, I turned it into a positive. I’ve been doubted pretty much my entire life so I felt that I had to prove them wrong and I think I did that, it’s just time to go work hard and see where I end up.”
Many of the Scarlet Knights currently in the NFL were on hand in Piscataway to support Sanu and his quest to be drafted. Those on hand included Ray Rice, Brian Leonard, Courtney Greene and Jamaal Westermann. Rice could be spotted on the sidelines chanting ‘Sanu for President,” as he completed his workouts for the day.
“He knows he’s a ball player,” said Rice. “He has nothing to worry about at the next level.”
As a player who too faced criticism and doubts for his speed and combine performance coming out of college, Rice had a very similar situation to the one currently staring down Sanu. Rice fell out of the first round and was chosen behind players like Chris Johnson, Jonathan Stewart, Matt Forte, Felix Jones and Rashard Mendenhall despite having statistical numbers comparable or better to all of those backs. After going to two pro bowls and being regarded as one of the top backs in the NFL, Rice knows you can’t accurately project a player’s career based on a workout or 40 times.
“I’ve never been a guy who was a fan of the 40. You can be a guy who runs a 4.3 but they don’t play 4.3, you run a 4.4 but you don’t play 4.4, you see a guy that’s a 4.6 but he looks faster than a guy 4.3. It’s just how you slice the cake.”
Sanu though understands that the nature of the business is to analyze and dissect every single aspect of a player’s foundation. When a scout takes a look at you, he already knows what you do well and the story your stats and game film tell. During a workout they’re looking for what you don’t do well so they can make the best possible decision on what player can help improve their franchise the most based on their on and off the field makeup, but Sanu doesn’t let that pressure get to him during his showcases.
“You have to [look at a players flaws],” said Sanu. “There are a lot of great athletes and you’ve got to see what they’re best at and what they’re not so good at. You have to minimize the ones you’re not good at and make sure you’re very good in all other areas.”
Sanu added, “I don’t feel any pressure. I feel like I was born to do this and I just go out there and do what I’m supposed to do. I’m just having fun; I love the game. A lot of guys come to watch me and see how well I do. It’s a good thing, if nobody was here, then I would be concerned.”
In addition to the 40 yard dash, Sanu also took part in position specific workout drills. During receiver drills, Sanu had University of Tennessee quarterback, Matt Simms throw to him and they appeared to have excellent chemistry throughout the entire series of assorted designed routes.
“I think I did pretty well,” said Sanu. “I try to be the best route runner I could be. I always focus on my route running. I’m always going through in my head what I’ve got to do and focus on each step. So, I think I did pretty well and executed the way I wanted to. I got in and out of my breaks well, caught the ball pretty good so I did alright.”
On Thursday April 26, Sanu will look to become the latest Scarlet Knight taken in the first round of the NFL Draft just as Anthony Davis, Kenny Britt and Devin McCourty have been in recent years. When asked of his chances of being selected in round one, Sanu said, “I don’t know, I’m hoping for it. But I can’t decide who is going to pick me and who is not. If I’m not, so be it. I’m going to go out and I’m going to play, hopefully I get a chance and I’m going to show everybody what I can do.
Sanu added, “There’s only so much you can control; you just have to go out and perform and show them that you’re able to perform at a high level.”