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'Dream come true': Former Montana Griz players, more show out in front of scouts at Pro Day

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Posted at 5:41 PM, Apr 04, 2023

MISSOULA — On Tuesday at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, former University of Montana football players and more showcased their skills in hopes of taking their talents to the next level.

The Grizzlies held their annual Pro Day in front of professional scouts from nine NFL franchises. That included the Seattle Seahawks, Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington Commanders, Miami Dolphins, San Francisco 49ers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Green Bay Packers, Las Vegas Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs.

PHOTOS: PLAYERS SHINE AT MONTANA GRIZZLIES PRO DAY

The former UM players who competed included linebackers Patrick O'Connell and Marcus Welnel, cornerbacks Justin Ford and Jayden Dawson, kick returner and wide receiver Malik Flowers, defensive lineman Eli Alford, and kicker Adam Botkin.

Two players from Montana Western, quarterback Jon Jund and offensive guard Noah Danielson, and one from Carroll College, defensive lineman Garrett Kocab, were also in attendance.

O'Connell, a Kalispell native, had a big day and leaped 38 1/2 inches in the vertical jump, which would've ranked in a tie for first among linebackers at this year's NFL Scouting Combine.

For him and the others, it was a special opportunity to get to take a step toward fulfilling lifelong dreams.

"It's been my dream and goal to do this ever since I gave up baseball and switched to straight football," said O'Connell, who began his career as a two-sport athlete at the University of Mary before walking on at UM and turning into an All-American prospect. "Growing up I wanted to play a professional sport no matter what it was, and now to turn a dream into a reality hopefully, it's obviously a dream come true."

O'Connell's pro shuttle time of 4.28 seconds and L-drill mark of 6.97 seconds both would've ranked second among linebackers at the combine as well.

"It's kind of crazy to think about because the week's leading up to this I've been thinking about specifically being on that 40 line. Just in my head over and over again," O'Connell said. "These last couple of days I've had a super calm demeanor and everything and I've just been saying, 'trust the training, it's going to be good, and just go out and run.' So when I stepped up to that line, I wasn't nervous at all for any event today and I think just having that calmness to me helped me a lot."

In typical Montana fashion, the stadium had to be cleared of last night's snow for the athletes to compete. But once they got going, each athlete showed what they've been working toward over their careers as well as over the last few months once the season ended.

Welnel, a Helena native, put up 27 reps on the bench press, which would've ranked tied for second among linebackers at the combine. His vertical jump and shuttle time also would've been top five among linebackers.

"Just to get a shot would be a dream come true," Welnel said. "As a little boy, you wrote what you wanted to be when you're older and I always wanted to be a football player, so just to get a shot and have the opportunity would be amazing.

"You know it was super cool actually being out here. You always dream of playing in the NFL and the first step is to do a Pro Day so I woke up this morning really blessed that I get the opportunity to come out here and show what I can do and hopefully get a shot."

Flowers put together the fastest 40 time on the day, finishing his in 4.46 seconds. That mark would've been top 20 among receivers at the combine.

"Definitely a great experience," Flowers said. "Just to see all of the guys coming back after training all that time and then to get out there and put in all of the work we've been putting in for two, three months on display was amazing. I was definitely happy with my performance today."

Flowers is in a unique position where he could find himself gaining interest both as a wide receiver as well as a decorated kick returner after he tied the FCS record for kick return touchdowns with seven in his career at Montana.

"It would mean everything," Flowers said of a pro opportunity. "At the end of the day you play this to become the best with the dream of playing at the professional level and show that you're one of the best athletes in the world at whatever position it may be so hopefully I showed enough out here to where the scouts will come and pick the boy up so I think I did really well, I'm excited with it, and now just leave it in God's hands and just hope for the best."

Justin Ford, another player from UM who could likely hear his name called, put up 20 reps on the bench press, good for first among corners at the combine. Alford also put up 31 reps on the bench press, good enough to tie for fifth-best among all players at the combine.

Here are the results from each player and each category they competed in:

Justin Ford, CB
Bench press — 20
Vertical jump — 35 inches
Broad jump — 9 feet, 7 inches
40 yard dash — 4.65
Pro shuttle — 4.46
L-drill — 7.19

Patrick O'Connell, LB
Bench press — DNP
Vertical jump — 38 1/2 inches
Broad jump — 10 feet, 2 inches
40 yard dash — 4.65
Pro shuttle — 4.28
L-drill — 6.97

Malik Flowers, KR/WR
Bench press — 12
Vertical jump — 34 inches
Broad jump — 10 feet, 0 inches
40 yard dash — 4.46
Pro shuttle — 4.39
L-drill — 7.13

Eli Alford, DL
Bench press — 31
Vertical jump — DNP
Broad jump — DNP
40 yard dash — 5.20
Pro shuttle — 4.81
L-drill — 7.94

Marcus Welnel, LB
Bench press — 27
Vertical jump — 36 1/2 inches
Broad jump — 9 feet, 11 inches
40 yard dash — 4.72
Pro shuttle — 4.38
L-drill — 7.33

Jayden Dawson, CB
Bench press — DNP
Vertical jump — 30 inches
Broad jump — 9 feet, 6 inches
40 yard dash — 4.76
Pro shuttle — 4.40
L-drill — DNP

Adam Botkin, K
Bench press — DNP
Vertical jump — 35 1/2 inches
Broad jump — DNP
40 yard dash — 4.66
Pro shuttle — DNP
L-drill — DNP

Garrett Kocab, DL
Bench press — 23
Vertical jump — 30 1/2 inches
Broad jump — 9 feet, 1 inch
40 yard dash — 5.22
Pro shuttle — 4.80
L-drill — 7.76

Noah Danielson, OL
Bench press — 21
Vertical jump — 28 inches
Broad jump — 8 feet, 6 inches
40 yard dash — 5.45
Pro shuttle — 5.01
L-drill — 7.97

Jon Jund, QB
Bench press — DNP
Vertical jump — 28 inches
Broad jump — 8 feet, 10 inches
40 yard dash — 4.87
Pro shuttle — 4.71
L-drill — 7.34