On the morning of pro day, which also happened to be his 23rd birthday, former Maryland cornerback Dexter McDougle woke up early. The alarm clock was set for 7 a.m., but his body knew the stakes and his mind began visualizing what lay ahead. An audition before dozens of NFL scouts. The first public workout since fracturing his shoulder blade. The chance to show everyone how far he had come.
Up first was a one-hour meeting with an NFL scouting director inside Gossett Team House, where they talked film and football. After that, McDougle entered the locker room downstairs. Sprawled across the carpet were several former Terrapins teammates, each of them with their own dreams, each thinking about the job interview that would begin soon.
But McDougle had the pedigree, nearly four years of starting cornerback experience with the Terrapins. He had the interest, which earlier this year came through an invitation to the NFL combine in Indianapolis, where he interviewed but performed no drills due to the injury. On Tuesday, it became apparent that many of the 35 scouts who flocked to Byrd Stadium, representing 24 teams, were there mainly to evaluate him.
As the 11 a.m. start approached, McDougle grabbed a thick plastic pipe and massaged his leg muscles. He thought about past pro days, and how back then his own seemed so far away. He kicked his legs into the air, then leaned forward and sighed.
“You boys ready?” he asked his fellow NFL hopefuls, seven in all. “This is what we’ve been doing. Don’t be nervous.”
The first drill was the bench press. McDougle skipped it. Surgery had cut straight through his shoulder muscles. Some have healed fast; others have atrophied. As the other players pumped 225 pounds as many times as they could, several scouts approached McDougle to say hello. He recognized some from the combine. Others needed an introduction.
“How you doing sir?” he said to one. “Dexter McDougle.”
“How you feeling?” the scout asked.
“Ready to roll?”
As a crowd of current Terps gathered, McDougle stepped to the vertical jump. He removed an NFL combine-issued sweatshirt, in optic green, to reveal a custom, form-fitting pro day uniform. He squinted up at the flags, squatted low, then paused.
“That’s it?” he asked his former teammates, many of whom had pulled out their phones to take pictures. “For all the cheering I did this year, that’s it?”
So much cheering, in fact, that Coach Randy Edsall felt obliged to create the inaugural Dexter McDougle Ultimate Team Player Award, for how he impacted the program even while wearing a sling — he was injured in the team’s third game of the season. The Terps obliged, tossing a chorus of motivation onto McDougle as he bent down again and exploded.
After the vertical — his mark of 37 inches was the highest — everyone moved to the broad jump, where McDougle leapt 10 feet 2 inches. Next was the 40-yard dash. One scout clocked him at 4.59 seconds against the wind and 4.47 seconds with it. Later, McDougle said another scout measured him at 4.43 seconds. He ran shirtless for that second attempt and, afterward, embraced Edsall in a bear hug.
A shuttle run came next. Then a three-cone drill. Then positional work. Backpedal, backpedal, pick up speed, whip around and catch the football.
When everything finished, McDougle glad-handed some scouts then addressed the media. Next week, he said, the Raiders will fly him to Oakland. After that, it’s onto New York to meet the Jets and Giants. As he talked, two more scouts lingered behind the cameras, waiting for a private interview.