MADISON––Ryan McWethy may not be a well-known, high-profle NFL prospect like Montee Ball, but he's no stranger to those in the know, those who make their living scouting football players.
McWethy is a safety from Division III Wisconsin-Platteville that worked out at the University of Wisconsin's pro day on Wednesday in front of a bevy of NFL scouts and Packers general manager Ted Thompson, but it's not as if McWethy was being discovered for the first time.
"I think that we've had over 25 to 28 NFL teams that came through our doors this fall to watch him practice," said Platteville head football coach Mike Emendorfer in an exlusive phone interview with Cheesehead TV. "A couple of the teams came down two or three times to watch practice."
Emendorfer said Platteville previously submitted four games of film on McWethy to a network all NFL teams use to scout players, and in just the past week, teams have contacted the university requesting even more film.
Not only was McWethy a Division III first-team All-American as voted upon by the American Football Coaches Association as a senior, but he put up measurables on Wednesday that placed him on par with those safeties invited to the NFL Combine.
First of all, McWethy checked in at 6' 1 1/4" and 226 lbs., prototypical size for an NFL safety.
His 31 bench press reps of 225 lbs. would have placed first among safeties at the NFL Combine, three more than 5' 9" Shamarko Thomas of Syracuse.
He also put on an impressive performance in the three-cone drill. Depending upon who you believe, McWethy said he clocked in at 6.65 and 6.67 seconds in two attempts while Gil Brandt of NFL.com had him an even lower 6.63.
Going with the lower figure, McWethy also would have placed first among safeties at the Combine, .01 better than Florida's Josh Evans.
Despite participating in drills with Division I University of Wisconsin players, McWethy didn't look out of place.
"I feel like I can compete with them," said McWethy. "I feel like I'm right here with everybody. I just have to have the confidence that I'm right there, I can compete with them. I felt all right. I didn't feel like an underdog too bad."
For McWethy, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and one he hasn't taken lightly. The product of Oregon, Ill. has taken off the current semester of school specifically to train for this moment in hopes that he'll be able to fulfill a dream of playing professional football.
"I don't think anyone saw that coming when he was a freshman in college," said Emendorfer. "We knew we had a good football player, but he definitely worked his butt off and has become I think an NFL-type of prospect."
Before it sounds like McWethy is too good to be true, Brandt pumped the brakes in his online analysis of the safety prospect.
"McWethy is a good-looking athlete," wrote the longtime Dallas Cowboys executive, "but his positional drill performance did not live up to the lofty numbers posted in the runs and jumps."
To be fair, Brandt was not present in Madison but rather counts on his league contacts for information to pass along to a larger audience. Even McWethy admits his footwork isn't his strong suit but thinks it's something he can improve upon because it's not something he's been taught.
In any case, there's little doubt that McWethy is turning heads and gaining attention. He said at UW's pro day that he talked to scouts from the Jaguars, Ravens, Oakland, Titans, Cowboys and Vikings on Wednesday and hasn't escaped the attention of the Packers either.
"I met with the Packers a little while ago, back during school," said McWethy. "I didn't meet with them today, but they called me about a week ago, making sure I was going to be here. So I've been in touch with them."
Emendorfer knows McWethy as a football player as well as anyone and describes him as humble, likeable and a great leader.
Even though he was a starter on defense on Platteville, Emendorfer says McWethy wasn't the type that looked to get off of special teams duties and thinks he can bring that aspect of his game to any future potential employer.
"I know what I'm going to get with Ryan," said Emendorfer. "He's a hard hitter, and I'm not saying he's a high draft choice, but I think he's a kid that just can play the game."
All McWethy is looking for is a chance. Unless a team invites him in for a private visit, Wednesday was his last opportunity to perform in front of an audience. But he's not going to stop working.
So where does he go from here?
"Stay in shape," said McWethy, "work on my footwork as much as I can, keep my strength up, hopefully get some calls and see where it goes from there."
Brian Carriveau is the author of "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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