In the wake of a very successful Spartan basketball season, some early spring football popped up with Pro Day at San Jose State Wednesday afternoon. Luckily, it happened during a perfect weather respite during the California deluges.
Among seven participants taking part in the tests and skills drills, the key locals at Pro Day this year were: Kyle Harmon (LB), Elijah Cooks (WR), Junior Fehoko (DL) and Nehemiah Shelton (CB).
But an “elephant-in-the-room” was standing on the wrong side of the ropes: all-everything defensive end, Cade Hall.
Spartan head coach Brent Brennan nonchalantly mentioned “that amazing, great human-being had retired” and pointed across the room to Hall.
“I’ve spent a long-time thinking about it, probably over a year ago, but once I made the decision about a week before our bowl game, I knew it was the right one,” said Hall. “I’m super happy, as is my fiancée and super grateful for my time here.”
Hall has always been a unique player destined for some NFL experience, but without the mentality and realization to completely embrace the meat-grinder that is the NFL world, his retirement answer makes sense, though social-mediaphiles might beg to differ.
In getting to know Hall, his decision makes complete sense. In Hall, you cannot see or feel the heart and soul of a person unless you speak to them in person a few times. And Hall’s sensibility and spirit truly emanates.
“I love football with all my heart, but I didn’t want the life style. It’s not college football,” added Hall. “Football is about having fun with your friends and the NFL is a super competitive job and you are really a commodity and I just didn’t want to do that.”
Hall will move to Southern California after his wedding next month in his hometown, Morgan Hill, just 20 miles south of campus. Hall also recently delved into the construction world and by all appearances has a head start on a magnificent life ahead.
From real life to a football one, Cooks and Shelton popped off 37 1⁄2“ and 35” verticals, respectively, while Harmon did 21 bench press reps at the standard 225 lbs. Completing the indoor tests, Harmon and Fehoko showed out with 34 1⁄2 ” and 30” verticals.
Cook’s and Harmon’s standing long jumps of 10.6’ and 9.6,’ respectively, opened the field drills. Respectable hand-held 40 times from 4.5 to 4.6 to 4.7 was the fastest times on Cooks, Harmon, Shelton and Fehoko.
Always equally impressive are the family, friends and slew of other players on hand to root their men on, which usually assists the participants on the stat sheets with that extra rep and oomph.
Sae Woon Jo
The last few years at Pro Day at SJSU, NFL scout Sae Woon Jo has led the tight ship. Calling out the drills, preparing the players and shepherding everyone along is par for the course for Jo (even telling this writer to move along from behind a drill:).
The scouts obviously provide a key role to assess the talent in front of them. But recently, scouts get called into question to how they assess and how are they actually measured? Case in point: the 49ers’ QB Brock Purdy, who was the last 2022 draft pick where supposedly, playing four years at Iowa where Mr. Irrelevant’s body of work was barely worthy.
Yes, eye-popping numbers can move a player to the “front-of-the-line” with the ticket to get in, but the gold return-on-investment has shown to be beyond the first rounders. With these four Spartans, they’ve proven to have sound character, long-term work ethic and fortitude to match their bodies of work.
At the least, they can be contributors with not just the right scheme, but with the right NFL teachers, these Spartans can also be bargains.
Mr. Football Lifer
Going into Brennan’s seventh season as the Spartan’s head football coach, getting a glimpse of Brennan and staff on Pro Days is a celebratory hand-off event from past to present.
Coming into this season, Brennan’s roster churn is mostly complete with this departing class. And how the Spartans perform this particular season will likely be a huge salient sign of Brennan’s tenure so far, especially looking at the early season gauntlet the Spartans face against USC, Oregon State, Toledo and Boise State. It’s not for the faint-of-heart.
But in Brennan’s heart is still pure passion for what he’s doing, where he’s at and where he’s going. From the most reliable source a writer can have that is not Brennan himself, Brennan’s love for the game and SJSU naturally burns with intensity.
Naturally, being the operative word - Brennan is a lifer. As a coach and teacher, there is no shortage of confidence and belief that spills over. With spring ball around the corner, there’ll next be high observance on what’s to come on the field.