COLLEGE PARK -- More than a dozen former Maryland football players made their way onto the field at Byrd Stadium on Wednesday, likely for the final time in their playing careers. It was the Terps' pro day, and the players were looking to show off their capabilities to 14 NFL scouts on hand.
It's a nerve-racking experience. The players took part in a series of drills that tested their speed, agility and athleticism in hopes that their performance will lead to a team calling their name during April's NFL draft.
A.J. Francis wasn't nervous, though. That's simply not the type of player he is.
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Byrd Stadium, College Park, MD, USA
And it showed Wednesday. The defensive tackle posted personal bests in the shuttle drill (4.5 seconds) and the broad jump (9 feet, 4 inches), and he fell just short of his top marks in the 40-yard dash (5.01 seconds) and bench press (24 repetitions).
"I'm always more a loose kind of guy. It's just the way I am," Francis said. "If I'm too uptight, I don't perform the way I want to perform."
It was the culmination of all the work he's done in the past two monthsat Bommarito Performance Systems in Davie, Fla., alongside former teammates Kenneth Tate, Joe Vellano and Matt Furstenburg, as well as other college athletes.
That work has begun to pay off. Francis said NFL teams have finally begun calling his agent to schedule individual workouts and facility visits, and he has three lined up in the coming weeks.
"I feel like there's a lot of spots I could fill," Francis said. "Every team plays a different defense, and every team has a different position they might think I would help the team best. I feel like I can play any one of them."
He showed that throughout his career with the Terps. Francis played under three defensive coordinators in the past three years — Don Brown in 2010, Todd Bradford in 2011 and Brian Stewart last season — giving him experience at all three defensive line spots in a 3-4 defense, as well as at both nose tackle and 3-technique in a 4-3 alignment.
"I'm not just saying I can do that. There's film of me doing that," Francis said. "There's not a lot of guys that can probably say that in the country. Not a lot of guys have switched [between] that many defenses and not a lot of guys have played different positions in those defenses."
Francis' name has made its way into some NFL circles. He's the only one the three Terps defenders training at Bommarito with any scheduled visits with NFL teams, and multiple websites have him ranked as a top-25 defensive tackle in the draft. He's now projected to go between rounds five and six, but Maryland coach Randy Edsall said it's too tough to predict where a player will go in the draft this early in the process.
"Having had the experience of coaching in the NFL — and knowing what goes on as they come back, sit down and have their meetings and everything else — there's so many things that can change," Edsall said. "That's what I tell the players. I say, 'Hey, don't worry about anything other than the fact that you're going to get an opportunity.'"
Francis plans on taking advantage of that opportunity. This is what he's been working toward throughout his football career. As to where he'll be next season, Francis isn't sure. He has some ideas of where he'd like to be, but he's leaving that decision up to the NFL's 32 teams.
"My family is Cowboys fans, and Texas doesn't have state income tax, so that's nice. Neither does Florida, and they have nice weather down there," Francis said. "But honestly, anyone that's willing give me an opportunity to play. I'll play anywhere."