After rising at dawn for months for grueling training sessions in Bel Air conducted by retired Ravens wide receiver Qadry Ismail, former City blue-chip wide receiver Adrian Coxson knows he has a lot riding on this week.
Following a relatively nomadic college career that included stops at Florida and Maryland before he spent the past three years at Stony Brook, Coxson has been preparing diligently for his campus Pro Day workout Wednesday in New York.
If Coxson runs the 40-yard dash in the 4.3-second range, which would make him one of the faster wide receiver prospects, he has a legitimate chance to get selected in the later rounds of the NFL draft. A time of 4.4 seconds would be regarded as good by NFL scouts, but would probably relegate Coxson to going undrafted and signing with a team as a priority free agent.
"I want it really bad, I'm hungry," Coxson said. "I'm shooting for that low 4.3, that's my plan. If I do a low 4.3 or even a high 4.3, I put myself in position to get drafted. I think I'll be ready."
Coxson's best time at school was a 4.44, but that was when the 6-foot-1, 215-pound receiver was several pounds heavier and before he had any formal training with Ismail at The Arena Club. Coxson was recently clocked in 4.34 seconds during a workout with Ismail.
A starting wide receiver for the Ravens' Super Bowl XXXV championship squad who played in the NFL for a decade, Ismail has been working with Coxson to refine his sprinting technique, pass patterns, how he catches the football, his moves after the catch and his diet.
"When I met Adrian, right away I could see that he had the physique and all the physical tools," Ismail said. "He had the explosiveness, but he could improve his flexibility and form and apply that force and mobility and improve his body awareness. I've been very impressed. The key word is, 'polish.' He's gotten stronger. He's changed up his eating habits.
"He's just scratching the surface, and I'm giving him some of that insight. He's a very good athlete, very fast for his size with a strong work ethic. I'm hoping and praying that he blows it up on his Pro Day and goes to the next level. This dude, he's got the gift. I hope the right people see that."
Getting to this point hasn't been an uninterrupted journey for Coxson, though.
Coxson committed to Penn State six years ago before deciding to sign with Florida after being recruited by now-Ohio State coach Urban Meyer.
However, Coxson quickly decided to transfer to Maryland to play closer to home when his father went blind due to diabetes. Coxson's father passed away this year after a long battle with the disease.
"People had a lot to say about why I left Florida, but it was because of my family situation," Coxson said. "I didn't want to talk about that at the time, but it was about me wanting to be there for my father and my family."
Coxson played for the Terps for two seasons, one for former coach Ralph Friedgen. He caught four passes for 90 yards as a redshirt freshman for new coach Randy Edsall before deciding to transfer again to Stony Brook.
"People always asked me why I transferred from Maryland, and it's not complicated," Coxson said. "When coach Friedgen and his staff left, I was one of several players to leave that year and I thought it was in my best interest to finish my career somewhere else. There's no bad blood there. I just thought going somewhere else would help me reach my goal of going to the NFL and that I would have a bigger and better role somewhere else."
Stony Brook is a Football Championship Subdivision school in Long Island, N.Y.
Playing in a run-first offense, Coxson flashed ability as a downfield threat while also providing a lot of blocking.
Coxson caught a career-high 43 passes for 664 yards and six touchdowns last season and was named third-team All-Colonial Athletic Conference. As a junior, Coxson caught 31 passes for 544 yards and three touchdowns.
"I've learned a lot by going to more than one school and it's made me appreciate everything," Coxson said. "In the past, I would think about how I could have done this at Florida or Maryland, but I'm happy with how everything turned out and I've learned to make the most out of every opportunity I've been given."
Based on Coxson's body of work and skillset, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. predicted he likely would go undrafted.
"I think he's a guy that has a chance as an undrafted free agent in this league and has a chance to play," Kiper Jr. said in a conference call. "I think he's certainly in the category of being a guy that will get some consideration, but not as a draftable guy. You have ability, he's shown that."
Coxson has a son, Adrian Jr., who was born following his junior season at Stony Brook. He says he's devoted himself to making it in the NFL to try to build a comfortable life for Adrian Jr..
"I'm always thinking about him and what I can do to better his life when he gets older," Coxson said. "Getting a shot at the NFL will be a great step to make his life easier financially. I think about him in everything I'm doing to try to make it. This chance isn't just for me. It's about him, too."
Although Coxson wasn't invited to the NFL scouting combine, he delivered a strong performance at the College Gridiron Showcase in January. Coxson drew praise throughout the week from scouts.
"I had a great week and I got a lot of good feedback from teams," Coxson said. "I felt like I played very well and played physical. Whatever ball in the air, my attitude is, 'The ball is mine.'
"I'm a very physical player and I love to block. I'm a receiver that likes to get down and dirty. I don't mind sticking my nose in there against a linebacker. I can turn a short pass into a long touchdown."
When Coxson was in high school, he was the No. 16 ranked wide receiver recruit in the nation by ESPN after finishing with 1,930 career receiving yards and 19 touchdowns. He played quarterback his season season at City, and was an All-Metro first-team selection who was also honored by SuperPrep and Rivals.
Now, Coxson is trying to prove himself again.
"Adrian's here at 4:50 a.m. for our 5 a.m. workouts, he's engaged," Ismail said. "He's a high-character guy you can count on and he's smart. I believe in this guy."
With Ismail advising him, Coxson says he's made steady improvement. And the adjustment to becoming an NFL player has been eased by the knowledge he's gained.
"To be able to learn from him has helped me tremendously," Coxson said. "He's been through everything in this process with the NFL. He played the same position that I did and he knows what it takes to get to the NFL
"The workouts have been going great. I'm feeling ready. The biggest thing is focusing on my speed for my Pro Day. That's the key."