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Being at home helps DeLuca with better performance at NDSU Pro Day

Former North Dakota State linebacker Nick DeLuca runs a drill for professional scouts during Thursday's NDSU's Pro Day. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor1 / 4
Former North Dakota State offensive lineman Austin Kuhnert runs a drill as former Bison teammate Nate Tanguay waits for his turn to perform for a professional scout during Thursday's NDSU Pro Day. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor2 / 4
Former North Dakota State safety Tre Dempsey runs a drill for professional scouts during Thursday's NDSU's Pro Day. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor3 / 4
Former North Dakota State linebacker Chris Board makes a catch while performing for professional scouts during Thursday's NDSU Pro Day. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor4 / 4

FARGO—It was almost like Nick DeLuca had payback as his motivation, only this time it wasn't against another football team. It was against the stop watch.

The former North Dakota State linebacker got another chance at showing what he could do in front of NFL scouts on Thursday and he came out satisfied with the result. Certainly, DeLuca said, better than what he showed at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis in early March.

"Just trying to hit some better times," he said. "I had two gos at everything as far as being able to come back here and do it again and I hit those marks that I wanted."

That included running a sub 4.8-second 40-yard dash, which he said he did at the NDSU practice bubble over Dacotah Field. DeLuca was one of 10 former NDSU players on display in front of scouts representing 21 NFL teams, including the Minnesota Vikings.

The 21 represents the most NFL clubs to ever be at an NDSU Pro Day. There were 16 teams on hand when former Bison quarterback Carson Wentz went through his Pro Day in 2016 in the Fargodome, but a few scouts got stuck in a snowstorm that year, also.

"It was everything I thought it would be," said former Bison tight end Jeff Illies. "The nerves were really going at the start but I think it helped me in the long run. I had some good times, some good bench reps and I felt really good."

Illies said he was told he clocked just over 4.7 in the 40. He benched 225 pounds 18 times, which is around what he figured. But perhaps his biggest measurement was toward the end when he went through some receiving drills along with former fellow tight end Connor Wentz.

"They liked my athleticism and ability to catch the ball," Illies said. "I'm not the biggest guy (for a tight end) and obviously we've talking about that in all my years at NDSU but I really wanted to show them what I could do catching some balls and running routes."

Illies was one of eight Bison players doing the drills for the first time in front of NFL eyes. As for DeLuca, he said he tweaked a couple things since the Combine—like his start in the 40-yard dash.

It also helped coming home.

"I think there's a sense of comfort being here," DeLuca said. "You have people that care about you and you care about them and a lot of people that are important to you. It makes for a better atmosphere and I think you're able to perform a little better."

DeLuca said he has at least one private workout with an NFL team remaining before the NFL Draft, scheduled for April 26-28. He's going to remain in Fargo up until that point.

"It's been a whirlwind, traveling to different places and experiencing new things," he said. "It's been a really cool and exciting journey and I'm excited as to what's going to happen."

Long snapper James Fisher has also been on a similar journey since the Bison season ended with a Division I FCS national title in Frisco, Texas, in early January. He's been to three specialist-specific combines in Arizona in the last two months that evaluate long snappers, kickers and punters.

Fisher did more of the same drills on Thursday.

"From what I understood, they told me to go snap and we'll get your times down," he said. "So I don't know if they were looking at blocking techniques or accuracy but I felt good all around."

Afterward, Fisher—who has his degree in management and is pursuing an MBA—displayed some good business skills talking with different scouts.

"I went around and tried to thank everyone for coming as best I could," he said. "And I got some good feedback from everybody so it felt good."

Jeff Kolpack

Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at www.bisonmedia.areavoices.com. On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.

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