Corey Smith and Dontre Wilson had injury-marred Ohio State careers that only scratched the surface of their ability.
But they are healthy now, and that’s why Thursday’s Ohio State pro day was so crucial for them.
All 32 NFL teams had representatives at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. New England’s Bill Belichick and Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis were among the nine head coaches. Seven general managers came.
For Smith and Wilson, pro day was their best chance to impress NFL teams. They were not among the eight Ohio State players invited to the NFL combine in Indianapolis last month.
“This was all I had, so this was the most important thing,” Smith said.
Smith came to Ohio State from junior college and quickly earned raves for his raw talent. He excelled as a special-teams gunner, particularly during the Buckeyes’ 2014 title run, but showed only flashes as a receiver. He missed most of 2015 after breaking a leg against Indiana. His 2016 season was mostly ruined by a fractured arm suffered in a September practice.
But his faith in his ability has not wavered.
“Honestly, I just feel like my talent and my skill set is anywhere from a first- or second-round type of talent,” Smith said. “The team that drafts me or picks me up is basically going to have a steal.”
Wilson, a highly recruited hybrid, fractured a foot against Michigan State in 2014 and the effects lingered for the rest of his OSU career. Only now, he said, is it fully healed.
“Things that you can’t control happened,” Wilson said. “I don’t dwell on it or let it get me down.”
A source said that in the 40-yard dash Thursday, Wilson was timed between 4.55 and 4.59 seconds and Smith at 4.59 to 4.65.
Both have earned degrees, but they are determined to make it in the NFL.
“I know I’ve got the talent to do it,” Smith said. “I just have to stay healthy.”
Cardale Jones, now with Buffalo, was one of several former Buckeyes who watched pro day. He believes both Wilson and Smith can make it.
“You have to be a different kind of athlete and guy to make it through four to five years here,” Jones said. “The way they competed when they were injury-free is the type of thing you can see out of guys in the NFL.
“When (those) guys are 100 percent, they’re extremely talented. Dontre, you can put him almost anywhere on the field. Corey, the same thing.”