It didn’t take long though for Attaochu to realize his hamstring was healthy and that he could perform without hesitation in front of NFL scouts Friday.
“I think I did great,” he said. “I surprised myself a little bit. I pushed through and I worked hard. That’s all they want to see — run fast and think fast.”
Attaochu, Georgia Tech’s career sacks leader, has progressed quickly since tearing his hamstring Jan. 25 at the Senior Bowl.
He missed the league’s scouting combine last month in Indianapolis, but went through requisite interviews with several NFL teams, including Tennessee, the New York Jets, New Orleans, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Philadelphia and the New York Jets.
But it wasn’t nearly the same as trying to prove himself on the field.
Scouts watched Attaochu and 13 other former Yellow Jackets do some of the same drills used at the combine each year.
Attaochu, who’s hoping to be drafted in the second or third round next month, said several scouts told him that he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds.
He reported no problems with changing directions quickly during shuttle drills.
“Being able to show the scouts my athletic ability (Friday) was great,” Attaochu said. “The film shows that, but being able to reassure them out here at pro day.”
Attaochu doesn’t seem to lack confidence in talents.
At 6-foot-3, 242 pounds, he’s not built big like the NFL’s prototypical defensive ends, but Attaochu doesn’t fit the mold of an exclusive third-down pass rusher.
Regardless, Attaochu said he’s as good in coverage as he is in reaching the quarterback, either coming from a three-point stance or from edge as a linebacker.
“The league is getting more versatile,” he said. “They need guys like me that can stand up and put their hand in the ground. That definitely works to my advantage.”
Like Attaochu, defensive backs Jemea Thomas and Louis Young, running backs Robbie Godhigh and David Sims and linebacker Brandon Watts also hope to draw NFL interest.
But a player like Godhigh, a former Harrison High School star who was not invited to the combine, faces tough odds to make an NFL roster.
Even so, Godhigh believes his small stature (5-foot-7, 190 pounds) will help. Short but fast and versatile at several positions, Godhigh hopes he compares favorably to Atlanta Falcons running back Jacquizz Rodgers and New Orleans running back Darren Sproles.
“There’s a lot of people my size in the NFL being successful,” Godhigh said, “so looking at them and seeing their success motivates me to be on top of my game.”
Godhigh said he didn’t ask scouts for his time in the 40, but Watts was pleased to announce that he ran between 4.38 and 4.39 seconds to meet his personal goal.
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said the workouts are also meaningful for all the players with hopes of playing in the NFL. Some of the other players who worked out were: Right tackle Ray Beno, defensive tackle Euclid Cummings, defensive end Emmanuel Dieke, center Jay Finch, offensive lineman Will Jackson, punter Sean Poole, kicker David Scully and guard Omoregie Uzzi.
“I’m sure there’s some pressure, but that’s part of it,” Johnson said. “It’s chasing a dream. For some of those guys it’s going to work out. For some of them it won’t.”
Johnson said the team that drafts Attaochu, a science, technology and culture major who ranks as the Atlantic Coast Conference’s No. 5 career leader with 31.5 sacks, won’t regret it.
“He brings the total package. Not only will he be a great player. He’ll be a great representative off the field as well.”