DeKALB – The magnitude of the sprint wasn’t lost on Tommylee Lewis.
The former Northern Illinois football star joined a handful of Huskies as part of the school’s Pro Day on Friday afternoon at the Chessick Center, with about a dozen NFL scouts watching with stopwatches while the speedy receiver did his 40-yard dash.
“I call it a life-changing 40 yards,” Lewis said with a laugh.
Lewis, who missed time his senior year dealing with an ankle injury and a sprained knee, ran a team-best 4.5 in the 40 and had the longest broad jump with 10 feet. Defensive lineman Ben Compton had the most reps in the 225-pound bench press with 29.
Fellow receiver Juwan Brescacin also came away pleased with his day – finishing with a team-best mark of 361/2 feet in the vertical jump and ran a 4.62 in the 40-yard dash and had nine reps of the bench.
“After going through five years of college football, your body starts to feel old,” said Brescacin, who had 24 catches for 298 yards and a touchdown last season. “But where I trained at, they did a good job of breaking me down and building me back up and keeping in balance. Coming in here, I felt pretty fresh and explosive. The biggest thing was catching all my footballs, and I did that. I was told I looked pretty smooth in my routes. I’m happy.”
Before his 40-yard dash, Brescacin slowly got ready – calmly tying his shoe before methodically dropping into a stance.
While the silence that comes before the events of Pro Day is unusual, Brescacin said it wasn’t anything compared to the big games the Huskies played in during his tenure.
“We’re just so used to performing under pressure,” he said. “The quiet is a little different than what you’re used to, but it’s just you and what you need to focus on. If you relax, you’re going to be fine. I didn’t want to rush anything because I wasn’t racing anybody. It was just me and the 40. I was making sure everything was comfortable and took a few breaths to relax my adrenaline. I knew the 40 was an important part.”
Linebacker Boomer Mays, who led the Huskies with 114 tackles last season, said he did well during the events – which featured positional drills along with the 40-yard dash, broad jump and shuttle runs.
“There’s not really pressure because when you play a game, you prepare and practice for it – just like this,” Mays said. “I’ve been preparing for months, so it’s showtime, let’s do this.”
The lineup of players during the Pro Day consisted of seniors from last year’s team, along with linebacker Rasheen Lemon, running back Cameron Stingily and safety Dechane Durante. Lemon did not play for the Huskies last season after being arrested in the spring for domestic battery, and Stingily and Durante each finished their playing days at NIU in 2014.
The receivers also caught passes from former Huskies quarterback Chandler Harnish, who also threw passes during last year’s Pro Day.
While the players said the goal was to be selected in the three-day NFL Draft that begins April 28, they said they would gladly take offers from other football leagues.
“I love the game, so if it’s NFL, CFL, as long as I can ball, I’ll be fine,” Lewis said.
Being from the Toronto area, Brescacin has an advantage when it comes to the CFL, which slates 21 of the 44 players on a roster for Canadians citizens.
“I grew up watching the CFL, so I have a lot of respect for that league and I think it’s growing, but my dream has always been to go to the NFL,” Brescacin said. “If it happens that I played in the CFL, I’d be just as happy.”