Draft Diary: South Florida wide receiver Carlton Mitchell will give us weekly detailed insights into the life of an NFL draft prospect in this special series.
Carlton Mitchell looked at his Pro Day as another chance.
Another chance to prove he could catch with his hands. Another chance to prove he made the right decision leaving South Florida after his junior year. And another chance to show NFL teams that he could come in and help them win a Super Bowl.
"I just wanted to show that I've been working on everything that's been labeled as a problem, that I'm improving every time I step in front of the coaches," Mitchell said.
After meeting with a few teams beforehand in the morning and going through height and weight measurements, Mitchell hurried out to the soccer field where the drills would take place.
That's when he broke out his folder - the folder he carried around every time he was going to run the 40. In it was a booklet that his trainer, Pete Bommarito, had provided. Mitchell had run the 40 hundreds of times in the previous months, and each time he relied on the booklet for a series of stretches, warmups and exercises to get ready.
The routine was interrupted a little early this time as Mitchell was told it was time to run.
He ran a 4.49 at the combine, a time he felt he could improve on.
As he walked to the starting point, some of Mitchell's coaches tried to get creative with their motivational techniques - telling him he made the wrong decision leaving school early, and that he wasn't going to make it in the league, along with some more R-rated words designed to get him riled up.
He would get two chances: one run with the wind, and another against it.
"When it was with the wind, it seemed like the wind stopped blowing," Mitchell said with a laugh. "I was trying to stall, trying to wait for the wind to pick up, but then I’m like ‘Alright, gotta do it.’"
And with that, Mitchell took off. On his way, he passed scouts, coaches and others who had set up at the 10-yard marker, the 20-yard marker, the 30-yard marker and, of course, at the end. It's important to remember that while we always hear about the final 40 times, personnel people want to test acceleration and other aspects of the run to see how each prospect's speed will translate to game situations.
As the coaches and scouts clicked their stop watches at the 40-yard marker, Mitchell looked up in the stands, where he had a group of 10 or so friends and family members cheering him on. They held up their hands, trying to let him know what his time was, but Mitchell couldn't make much sense of their signals.
He would later find out the numbers varied between a 4.40 and a 4.46.
"I knew it wasn’t my best, but it was decent," Mitchell said. "I can’t really complain about anything. I’m not satisfied with that time, but I trained so hard for that moment."
On his second run against the wind, Mitchell ran between a 4.47 and a 4.51.
"On the second one, I warmed up a little more," he said. "The wind wasn’t blowing at all the first time. But when I decided I was ready, the wind started picking up. I just had to laugh in my head."
After the runs, it was time for some more drills, which involved catching the football. Mitchell had been preparing by catching between 250-300 passes everyday.
"I just wanted to work on keeping everything away from my body," Mitchell said. "I wanted to prove I’m confident with my hands. I didn’t have a single body catch.
"I will admit dropping one during a curl. I still think about it. I know why I dropped it. Just got too non-chalant and tried to turn upfield too fast."
When all was said and done, Mitchell got pretty good reviews. One headline in the St. Petersburg Times read Receiver Carlton Mitchell shines on USF Bulls Pro Day.
But Mitchell doesn't want to hear that. Talking to him a couple days later, he sounded happy to be done with the runinng tests and measurements, but it was clear his mind is focused on still improving.
"It’s very exciting," he said. "Good or bad, I don’t try to get caught up with all that stuff. I just want to stay consistent. Someone told me the NFL is a business and it doesn’t need me. Whatever opportunity I get, I’m gonna make the most of it. Guys expect to go in the first round and get taken in the fifth. Guys expect to go in the second and don't get drafted at all."
With the draft rapidly approaching, Mitchell is going through the usual routine of team visits and workouts.
"It's not the time to kick my feet up and relax," he said. "I've gotta stay on the grind even more now. Now it’s the football part - catching balls, getting in shape for minicamp. It's a whole other game plan. I’m not gonna sit back and relax at all."
Until a couple weeks from now, when Mitchell waits to hear his name called during the draft.
Check out our earlier posts from this series: