UMass football: Record number of players participate in Minutemen’s pro day

Jalon Ferrell runs the 40-yard dash during UMass’ Pro Day on Tuesday afternoon in Amherst.

Jalon Ferrell runs the 40-yard dash during UMass’ Pro Day on Tuesday afternoon in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/GARRETT COTE

Juan Lua attempts the broad jump during UMass’ Pro Day on Tuesday afternoon in Amherst.

Juan Lua attempts the broad jump during UMass’ Pro Day on Tuesday afternoon in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/GARRETT COTE

Billy Wooden sets up and prepares to run the 40-yard dash during UMass’ Pro Day on Tuesday afternoon in Amherst.

Billy Wooden sets up and prepares to run the 40-yard dash during UMass’ Pro Day on Tuesday afternoon in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/GARRETT COTE

By CONNOR PIGNATELLO

Staff Writer

Published: 03-26-2024 7:52 PM

Modified: 03-26-2024 7:58 PM


AMHERST — The UMass football program held its annual pro day on Tuesday afternoon in front of scouts for the New England Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars. The Minutemen held their first spring practice of the year in the morning.

UMass had 10 football players participate: OL Marcellus Anderson, DT Hugo Klages, DT Cletus Mathurin, DE Uchenna Ezewike, S Jalon Ferrell, CB Juan Lua, TE Gino Campiotti, WR Mark Pope and WR Isaac Ross.

“I was talking with the athletic trainers yesterday and they said this is the most guys they’ve ever had,” Anderson said. “So, obviously that’s something that you look and say, ‘wow, the program is going in the right direction if you have this many guys trying to get out in front of pro teams and work out.’”

And after months of off-site training, players got to see each other again on campus, possibly for the last time.

“Coming back to Amherst was a great time too,” Campiotti said. “Just in general, being here the past couple days getting ready for this pro day, seeing some faces I hadn’t seen in a couple months, the love you feel in this place is real. It’s been a blast.”

Dreams realized

Though only the Patriots and the Jaguars had representatives present on Tuesday, testing in front of NFL scouts was a goal years in the making for the players in attendance.

Lua’s uncle, Oscar, was drafted by the Patriots in the seventh round of the 2007 NFL Draft.

“It’s a dream come true,” Lua said. “Being a kid and watching [Oscar], who was playing for the Patriots here for a little bit, getting to perform in front of that team is a dream come true. This is all I ever wanted to do, all I want to do if I can keep doing it. I’m going to keep doing it as long as I can, the passion behind it is everything.”

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Lua spent the last week of his pro day preparation training like a track athlete, he said. Official times have not yet been released for the 40-yard dash but unofficial measurements had him in the 4.4-4.5-second range, which was the fastest of all UMass players. 

On the bench press, Anderson put up 21 reps at 225 pounds.

Ferrell and Ross each posted 10 feet, 2 inch marks in the broad jump, tops among players in attendance. Ezewike measured at 10 feet and Lua followed behind at 9-10.

“It’s a blessing to be in this situation,” Ross said. “You dream about this type of stuff. Being able to have a pro day, work out in front of NFL scouts, teammates cheering me on, it’s a blessing. I feel real good about it.”

Networking, networking,networking

Anderson played his final season of college football for the Minutemen last year after a transfer from Division II Saginaw Valley State. At the College Gridiron Showcase in January, he met with the Bills and also talked with the Commanders. During the season, he heard from the Colts, Lions, Packers and Texans. Anderson profiles as a guard in an inside zone scheme and appeared in all 12 games for the Minutemen last year.

Last week, Lua tried out for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL. 

“The goal is to get signed by a team, more than anything at the end of the day, especially an NFL team,” Lua said. “I’m hopeful for that right now.”

Preparation pays off

Players competing at the pro day had been doing two-a-day workouts for months to prepare for their chance to show off in front of scouts.

Anderson spent the past couple months training in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with Dustin Brancheau, Northern Michigan’s strength and conditioning coach.

Days started with his first workout from 8-10:30 a.m. and his second from 1-2:30 p.m. Now that the pro day is behind him, Anderson said he’s returning to the Upper Peninsula but shifting his training focus. 

“It’s going to be different in terms of more conditioning, getting in really good shape for camp,” Anderson said. “More football-specific work. Stuff like that is what I’m looking for, getting more football work in. Obviously for O-linemen, your 40 is not your specialty. You want to get in front of the NFL people and show them that the football is what you’re good at.”

Anderson currently sits at 318 or 319 pounds and is looking to get up to the 322-323 range by the time summer camps roll around.

“I’m going to try to put on as much lean muscle as I can,” Anderson said. “Protein, protein and more protein, that’s what I’m saying. Eat as clean as possible. You don’t want to put it on sloppy, that’s one thing that’s always been in the back of my mind. I want to be 322 but I don’t want to eat bad things to be 322. Everyone can go drink soda pop and do all that stuff to put the weight on but I want to do it the right way.”

Pope was UMass’ third-leading receiver last year, with 33 grabs for 420 yards and a touchdown. He trained for the pro day in Dallas. Three days before the pro day, he came back into town and got together with Ross.

“I felt like I was well-prepared,” Pope said. “I felt like I killed it. I felt like I caught the ball well, had no drops, ran some amazing routes.”

Ross only caught three passes for nine yards last year and primarily featured as a punt returner. In 2022, he caught 21 passes for 195 yards.

He returned home to Rock Hill, S.C., to train for the pro day. Under the tutelage of his high school trainer in Rock Hill, he trained four days a week and added in a conditioning day on Saturday.

“I think I had a good day. (I don’t have) a combine or anything like that, so this was big for me to come out here and showcase what I can do,” Ross said.

Lua trained a bit in his hometown back in California, and then headed back to UMass, where he’s working toward his master’s degree. He had morning workouts in Springfield at 9 a.m. but was also able to use the cold tub and other resources on the UMass campus.

He was especially focused on speed work to get his 40-yard dash time lower. Now that the pro day is over with, he’s getting ready for the summer.

“Now the big focus is going to be from working on our speed, but now implementing more position work and getting ready for wherever I end up, be it CFL or NFL,” Lua said. “Getting those minicamp invites possibly, and just getting ready for camp.”

The NFL Draft is slated for April 25-27 in Detroit.