Jordan Howden, Thomas Rush and Matthew Trickett made their names after impressive performances in front of a gallery of professional scouts.

Defensive defender Howden stood out as he improved six inches in the vertical challenger during Wednesday's Pro Day.

Jasmine Kemp

Defensive defender Howden stood out as he improved six inches in the vertical challenger on Wednesday’s Pro Day.

University of Minnesota football opened the doors of its practice facility Wednesday for its annual Pro Day. Scouts, coaches and the media watched a select group of veteran gophers demonstrate their athleticism ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft.

Ten gophers were present at this year’s event. Chuck Filiaga, Axel Ruschmeyer, John Michael Schmitz, Mohamed Ibrahim and Tanner Morgan represented Minnesota’s offense while Jordan Howden, Thomas Rush, Terell Smith and Mariano Sori-Marin represented defense. Matthew Trickett was the team’s only special teamer to attend.

The day began with talks between scouts and players on the ground floor that echoed throughout the training room. At 9 a.m. sharp, talks ground to a halt when a Minnesota staffer asked the players to weigh themselves.

One of the bigger questions being floated today was Schmitz’s weight. During last season, his playing weight was listed as 320 pounds; at the NFL Combine, that number dropped to 301. Schmitz was one of the first to step on the scale, and according to the Minnesota employee, he appeared to have gained a few pounds since then.

After the weigh-in was complete, spectators headed to the vertical challenger to witness the next physical test. Vertical measurements are valued in scouting ratings by wide receivers and defenders, and nobody has done more to improve their rating than fullback Howden. On his last attempt, he jumped a staggering 39.5 inches off the ground, six inches more than his previous last attempt at the NFL Combine.

Rush was another prospect who had an eye-opening performance start at the vertical challenger. His leap propelled him 35.5 inches in the air, an admirable feat for a defensive end.

Unlike Howden, Rush did not receive an invite to the Combine, so his opportunity to showcase his athletic ability in front of professional teams was confined to this unique event and he made it worthwhile for all. The former linebacker-turned-edge-rusher-bench presser pressed 225 pounds 19 times, ran an unofficial 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, and jumped 10 feet 3 inches in the long jump.

Meanwhile, on the practice field, Gophers head coach PJ Fleck spoke with Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell. The Vikings sent a variety of representatives to attend and had the largest presence despite all 32 NFL teams in attendance. Their group ranged from the team’s general manager, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, to their designated area scouts.

In the past, the pipeline between the two football programs has been weak. In the past 22 years, only two Gophers have been drafted by the Minnesota Vikings: Esezi Otomewo (2022) and Nate Triplett (2010).

The Pro Day ended with Trickett taking the field to participate in a kicking drill. In it, he revealed why he ended last season with just 3 missed field goals and zero extra points missed.

He ended the day on a high note after scoring 8 of 9 of his field goals from 41 yards. His only error came from a try from 61 yards, but he quickly recovered by nailing another try from 62 yards.


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