The man everyone came to see yesterday was hard to miss, even if you didn't notice the red-and-gray numbered shirt he wore when he ran the fastest 40-yard dash in the NFL scouting combine three weeks ago.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, at home and at ease, towered over the field in more ways than one on Maryland's pro day. At least 25 teams and as many as 40 NFL scouts or coaches were on campus to watch 24 draft-eligible Terps get timed, tested, weighed and measured.
Most of those on hand were eager to see Heyward-Bey run routes and catch passes from his one-time quarterback, Maryland graduate Sam Hollenbach. Some, like Minnesota Vikings assistant George Stewart, came just for that.
But bigger tests are coming soon for the Terps' playmaking receiver.
Roll call is expected to expand appreciably during the next few weeks. But Heyward-Bey left little doubt he relishes the idea of getting drafted by the Ravens, who own the 26thpick. And he likes the chance to catch Flacco's passes.
"That will be great," he said after delivering a strong performance in position drills. Flacco "went to Delaware and did a great job last year. I could go there and be a weapon for them. We could grow together ... write that."
Heyward-Bey is regarded as the third or fourth best receiver in this year's class. Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech and Jeremy Maclin of Missouri head the list, and Heyward-Bey has, in some evaluations, moved past Percy Harvin of Florida (injury issues). Most draft experts believe Heyward-Bey will be taken in the first round, but some think he might slip into the top of the second.
Heyward-Bey's blistering 40 in Indianapolis last month (4.30 seconds) was merely a confirmation of world-class speed, not a revelation. It's his technique as a receiver that scouts want to scrutinize.
Terps coach Ralph Friedgen, who attended the workouts, said Heyward-Bey, a Silver Spring native who went to McDonogh, is scraping the tip of his potential.
"He's one of those kids who was not only blessed with athleticism and speed, he's also got a great work ethic," Friedgen said. "He's not a finished product. I think he's 60 percent of what he's going to be. I think there's a lot of room for improvement because of that work ethic. I'm very confident that in time, he'll be one of the top receivers" in the NFL.
Heyward-Bey spent six weeks at a training facility, Athletes' Performance, in preparation for the combine and individual workouts before the draft, working with former Pro Bowl receiver Roy Green.
Since the up-close-and-personal evaluations started, he has had to defend his modest career statistics at Maryland and work on his pass-catching technique, which some have criticized.
In 38 games at Maryland, he caught 138passes for 2,089 yards and 13 touchdowns, including plays of 96, 80 and 63 yards. He also ran for two touchdowns.
"We play a pro-style offense," Heyward-Bey said about his career numbers. "We run the ball; that's what we do. Receivers block. We're complete receivers. We do it all."
Heyward-Bey caught 13 of 15 passes thrown to him in various drills yesterday, losing a deep ball once when he misjudged Hollenbach's heave.
Coaches from the Pittsburgh Steelers and Vikings gave him special counsel during and after the workout.
"They gave me feedback like I was already part of the team," he said.
Notes: Heyward-Bey did not run the 40 yesterday, and the fastest time belonged to wide-out Isaiah Williams with a 4.38. Williams also had the top time in the 60-yard shuttle in 11.10. ... Cornerback Kevin Barnes (Old Mill) posted 40 times of 4.44 and 4.46, and tied Williams for the best vertical jump at 41 inches. ... Defensive lineman Jeremy Navarre (Joppatowne) did 36 reps in the 225-pound bench press, the best of the day.
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