FARGO - No Pro Day, no NFL scouts getting a first-hand look at North Dakota State football players hoping to land a job at the next level. The ambiguity of the coronavirus pandemic has everybody scrambling to keep their names somehow on NFL minds.
For defensive end Derrek Tuszka and tight end Ben Ellefson, there is a sense of relief in that they have already performed on an NFL stage - Tuszka at the NFL Combine and both players at the East-West Shrine Bowl all-star game.
“There’s a weight lifted off me that I had the opportunity to compete at the Combine,” Tuszka said. “I was just fortunate to go there. The guys that aren’t having a Pro Day who didn’t have the opportunity, that has to be difficult for them but it will all work out.”
Former Bison offensive lineman Zack Johnson played in the Collegiate Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., so he had a few days to put his technique on video tape.
Johnson, Ellefson, Ty Brooks and Dimitri Williams, defensive backs Marquise Bridges and James Hendricks, wide receiver Jimmy Keporous and defensive tackle Cole Karcz were expected to compete at NDSU’s Pro Day this Thursday. It would have been a chance for the first time to put numbers in front of NFL scouts, but it was canceled with the NFL taking their personnel off the road.
“It’s really hard,” said Bison offensive coordinator Tyler Roehl, who handles NDSU’s Pro Day lineup. “I think the best thing they can do is continue to make a highlight film and try and send that out. I don’t know; it’s unprecedented waters as far as these guys and their transition to the NFL.”
Tuszka and Ellefson both trained at the same facility outside of Denver. Both returned to the Fargo-Moorhead area after life across the country started shutting down. Ellefson said he has some weights at his home in Hawley, Minn., that will suffice for now.
Tuszka said he found some access to free weights. Both players have been doing a lot of old-school basics like situps and pushups.
“It’s kind of difficult and throws a wrench in there,” Ellefson said. “But we’re figuring things out and being creative in what you have to do.”
Training for Tuszka up until the Combine focused on the specific drills of the event in Indianapolis, Ind. Now it’s back to building strength specific to football.
The NFL Draft is scheduled for April 23-25 and so far multiple reports indicate the league is still going to conduct it somehow. It was set for the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas but the public events have been canceled.
Tuszka appeared to improve his stock to hear his name called in one of the seven rounds. Ellefson could have used NDSU’s Pro Day, but he still got to spend a week in front of scouts at the all-star game.
He said he’s been doing Facetime interviews with some teams.
“I’m probably not as disappointed as some of the other athletes,” Ellefson said. “I had a couple of opportunities to showcase what I could do. The guys that didn’t have that were banking on Pro Day. I haven’t talked to them the last couple of days but I’m sure it’s pretty frustrating.”
On the plus side, the players who got canceled out of a Pro Day are coming from a reputable program that has put players in the NFL almost on a yearly basis.
“NFL teams want guys who can win,” Tuszka said. “And NDSU has shown we know how to do that.”