Steele, Dukes enjoy JMU’s Pro Day

James Madison University linebacker Gage Steele focuses on catching this pass at the end of a drill Tuesday during Pro Day at Bridgeforth Stadium at JMU on Wednesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

HARRISONBURG — Many of James Madison University’s football seniors were reunited in the bitter cold for a great reason Wednesday — JMU’s Pro Day.

There were 10 seniors, one former player and four players from Virginia Military Institute participating in JMU’s Pro day in front of approximately 27 NFL scouts.

“I wasn’t really expecting it to be this cold and this windy. We all came out here with the weather against us and did very well,” said JMU senior and Warren County graduate Gage Steele. “We put up good numbers for what we had to go through today. I’m very excited for everybody. We all came out here hungry and ready to go. We’re all just chasing this dream. So it was an amazing day. We’re all blessed to be out here doing this and can’t be more thankful.”

Steele, a linebacker, running back Khlaid Abdullah, wide receiver/punt returners Rashard Davis and Brandon Ravenel, offensive linemen Matt Frank and Mitchell Kirsch, punter Gunnar Kane, cornerback Taylor Reynolds, defensive lineman Martez Stone and wide receiver Domo Taylor participated in the JMU Pro Day. Former JMU quarterback Vad Lee also participated in the event, which lasted 2 1/2 hours.

The players started out lifting weights in Plecker Athletic Performance Center and then moved to Bridgeforth Stadium for the remaining events.

Pro scouts time former James Madison University linebacker Gage Steele during JMU's Pro Day on March 15. Steele is now pursuing a career as a NASCAR pit crew member. Rich Cooley/Daily file

On the football field, the players performed the 40-yard dash, then the 20-yard shuttle, the 60-yard shuttle, a three-cone drill and then they broke up into different position drills to end the day.

“I think it went really well,” Kirsch said. “JMU did a great job setting everything up. The scouts were great — helped us out along the way. It was just an opportunity to compete and show what you got. I think everybody did a great job.”

The NFL Draft will be held on April 27-29 in Philadelphia. After the draft teams will be looking to sign undrafted free agents to try out for their teams. The scouts were at Virginia Tech on Wednesday morning and will be at the University of Virginia today.

Steele said he’s been working hard and training at JMU for the last six weeks with some of his teammates and JMU Director of Strength and Conditioning John Williams.

“Big John (Williams) he knows a lot of things,” Steele said. “That definitely helped us today with training and stuff like that, allowing us to be able to perform the way we did today. The last six weeks, every day pretty much, we were in here getting the work in, focusing on technique, all the things that we were going to have to go through. I’m thankful that he allowed us to train here and take some of his time away from his regular job and help us with this special day for us. And it’s just been an awesome experience with him. And he’s helped us out a lot and I can’t thank him enough.”

Former JMU quarterback Vad Lee throws a pass during Pro Day. Rich Cooley/Daily

Steele said he has an agent now – one that he said he could trust and who would really look out for him.

The Dukes won the Football Championship Subdivision title in January, and the players said that it definitely could help them get a little more exposure for the NFL Draft.

Lee suffered a season-ending injury toward the end of last year and said he didn’t get a chance to do anything except throw at last year’s JMU Pro Day. He said he was excited when JMU head coach Mike Houston invited him to this year’s camp. Lee played in the Canadian Football League for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. However, he didn’t get much playing time. He didn’t throw a pass last season and only had one rushing attempt for 0 yards.

Lee said he felt good about how he did Wednesday.

“Today I was able to show the whole athlete and not just a throwing session,” he  said. “Last year I was hurt and it was visible. This year I’m healthy and healed and I feel like I did pretty good.”

JMU's wide receiver Rashard Davis performs a drill. Rich Cooley/Daily

Kirsch said it was nice to be with his teammates one more time.

“Me and Frank have been together for five years,” Kirsch said. “So it was great to end on a day where you’re performing in front of 30 scouts.”

Steele said all of the players arrived back at JMU on Monday and worked out together as a group.

“Last time we saw each other we won a national championship, so it was good to see everybody again,” Steele said. “Smile, hug, say what’s up. And just to come our here with all the dudes that you grind with and went through that kind of season with — it’s awesome to be out here competing to get to the next level.”

Steele said he’s trying not to think too much about the possibilities for his future, but he’ll be ready either way it goes.

JMU's defensive back Taylor Reynolds streaks downfield shirtless in subfreezing temperatures as he sprints the 40-yard dash. Rich Cooley/Daily

“Depending on what happens I’ll either take that next step and try to get on an NFL team, or start my regular life and find a job and take care of this family that’s coming,” Steele said.

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com