COLLEGE PARK — The calls came from the Gossett Football Team House balcony overlooking the field during Maryland's pro day. Below, on the turf of Maryland Stadium, former Terps star Yannick Ngakoue bent at the waist with his hands on his knees, sweat dripping off his face.
"Come on, big dog," the voice exhorted. "Mind over matter. Go get it."
Ngakoue, along with fellow defensive linemen Quinton Jefferson and Keith Bowers, was in the middle of a series of fast-paced agility drills being run by scouts from the Philadelphia Eagles and Tennessee Titans who barked at them and demanded they do each drill faster and better.
Ngakoue had already solidified his status as a draft prospect at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. But here in College Park, he was trying to "put the icing on the cake" and prove himself again.
"I didn't expect that," Ngakoue said. "But I like it. I like stepping up to the challenge, getting a little adversity, showing coaches my toughness and my heart."
Scouts from 27 NFL teams held stopwatches and notepads while they watched 11 former Terps go through a battery of workouts, from the defensive linemen's agility to drills to Brad Craddock's kicking. Some players, like Ngakoue and defensive back Sean Davis, are known commodities after their performances last season and at the combine.
But for others, such as running back Brandon Ross, offensive lineman Andrew Zeller and linebacker Avery Thompson, Wednesday afternoon was the biggest stage they will have this spring to impress NFL scouts. And still two more — Bowers and wide receiver Daniel Adams — last played for Maryland in 2014 and were trying to get noticed.
"It's like a dream come true," Davis said. "I always dreamed about this. I'm finally in the midst of it, and it's finally hitting me."
Defensive backs A.J. Hendy and Anthony Nixon rounded out the 11 former Terps participating in workouts Wednesday.
Zeller, who started 12 games for Maryland at right guard last fall, said he plans to attend a local workout with the Baltimore Ravens on Friday, and he felt that his performance in his drills surprised some of the scouts in attendance. And even though it's unlikely Zeller will ever need to sprint 40 yards in a straight line in a game situation, he knew that in order to catch the eye of a team, he needed to display athleticism.
"It's just part of the process," Zeller said. "You have to embrace this part because if you don't put up good numbers, you're not going to get a chance to play at the next level because besides film, that's the only comparable and measurable that they have to compare you to other athletes that you weren't able to go against or play beside. I think it's a huge part of the process and you have to embrace it. You can't overlook this process at all."
Watching all of this was former Maryland star wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Despite solid workouts and production during his three years in college, concerns about durability helped Diggs last until the fifth round of last year's NFL draft when the Minnesota Vikings plucked him with the 146th overall pick. In the fall, he became one of the league's top rookie receivers.
His presence showed the Terps was another reminder of what they were working toward.
"Seeing him gave me a little boost that he came back, amped me up a little bit," Davis said.
For Ngakoue, pro day was another landmark on his march toward the draft. He realized he had a legitimate shot at playing in the NFL after he earned All-Big Ten honors after his sophomore season, and he followed it up by setting the program's single-season sack record last fall. A few days after the season ended, Ngakoue announced he planned to enter the draft.
A month from now, he expects to get a call telling him where his pro career will begin. But Wednesday, it was about being on the field in College Park with his former teammates again.
"It's been pretty good because those are guys I came in with, some of those guys are definitely older than me, and they just took me under their wing when I first got here," Ngakoue said. "So it's just a blessing to grind with them and just compete with them one last time in [Maryland] Stadium."