CMU football host DII, DIII players at Pro Day

Scouts from the National Football League and Canadian Football League watch athletes participate in Central Michigan's 2018 Pro Day on March 16 at the Indoor Athletic Complex.

Twenty-seven NFL hopeful athletes took the field March 16 at the Indoor Athletic Complex at Central Michigan University in the aspirations to live out their dreams as professional football players. 

Of that number, 15 were former standouts for CMU, eager to impress the numerous scouts and coaches with their agility and strength during the team's Pro Day event. 

The remaining 12 hailed from seven different NCAA Division II and III schools across the state of Michigan, including Davenport and Hope College. 

Hope College's Brandon Campbell participates at Central Michigan's Pro Day on March 16 at the Indoor Athletic Complex.

It’s had been a continued tradition to invite other athletes to Pro Day since CMU head coach John Bonamego took the reigns in 2015. Having been an NFL special teams coach for over a decade, he knows how hard it can be to reach the NFL. 

It is even harder for athletes who may not have had the chance to play at the highest level of collegiate football, Bonamego said. 

“All of these young men here are deserving to be here because they were requested and put on the radar by NFL scouts,” Bonamego said. “I’d like to be able help more but I can’t just open it up to everyone because it’d take away the exposure from our kids.”

Ferris State, who lost in the Super Region 3 Regional Championship on Dec. 2 to conclude its 2017 season at 11-2 overall and 8-1 in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, brought four individuals to CMU’s Pro Day. 

Hillsdale College, Northwood and Saginaw Valley State each brought two athletes. 

Among defensive lineman Chris Okoye, running back Jahaan Brown and linebacker Terrell Porter, is former Eastern Michigan transfer quarterback Reggie Bell, who finished out his career with the Ferris State Bulldogs for two seasons as a starter. 

Bell, tabbed the GLIAC’s Player of the Week following the season-opener on Sept. 9, was given as many looks as CMU fifth-year senior Shane Morris during throwing drills, showcasing his ability as a dual-threat quarterback. 

A native of Los Angeles, California, Bell didn't feel the nerves of Pro Day after talking extensively with fellow quarterback Jason Vander Laan, a two-time Harlon Hill Trophy winner, who’s now on the Indianapolis Colts practice squad. 

“Every time (Vander Lann) comes back from time-to-time, he always give advice and tips on what I can do and what exactly the scouts are looking for,” Bell said. “When I came out here, it was time to show what I could do, and when you have all 32 teams watching, you can’t ask for nothing better than that.”

The graciousness that Bonamego's given to players at the lower levels to be exposed at this caliber certainly couldn’t more appreciated by Ferris State head coach Tony Annese.

Ferris State head coach Tony Annese watches his players perform at Central Michigan's Pro Day on March 16 at the Indoor Athletic Complex.

Annese understands that these types of events are why three former players have signed NFL contracts in the previous two years.

"Credit goes out to Central Michigan's staff for opening up its doors," Annese said. "There's some really gifted young men from the GLIAC and for that opportunity to exist for us is extraordinary. I can't overstate it."