NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Fourteen players whose final year with the Irish was the 2013 season and two from the 2012 crew, who last played against Alabama in the national championship game, were put through the paces Thursday afternoon at the Loftus Sports Center during Notre Dame's annual Pro Day.
All 32 NFL teams were represented with three general managers and two head coaches - Pittsburgh Mike Tomlin and Jacksonville's Gus Bradley - in attendance.
It was one of the largest contingents of former Notre Dame players to audition on Pro Day. The former Irish players participating were: running back George Atkinson III, linebacker Carlo Calabrese, linebacker Dan Fox, offensive lineman Mike Golic Jr., cornerback Bennett Jackson, receiver TJ Jones, offensive lineman Zack Martin, tight end Troy Niklas, defensive lineman Louis Nix III, quarterback Tommy Rees, defensive lineman Kona Schwenke, linebacker Prince Shembo, kicker Nick Tausch, defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt, receiver Robby Toma and offensive lineman Chris Watt.
Niklas and Tuitt did not participate in any of the on-field work following injuries. Niklas showed a noticeable limp while Tuitt sported a boot on his left foot.
Eight of the 16 were clocked in the 40-yard dash: Calabrese, Fox, Jackson, Nix, Rees, Schwenke, Watt, and Toma. Each ran twice except Watt. Shembo, Atkinson, Jones, Niklas, Martin, Golic, Tausch, and Tuitt did not run.
After running the second 40-yard dash, Jackson favored his right hamstring. Subsequent defensive back drills were canceled due to Jackson's injury.
Toma, Atkinson and Jones caught passes from Rees to open the positional work. Jones and Toma caught the football effortlessly. Atkinson, with a reputation for having difficulty as a receiver, caught the football well on the whole, but fought a few along the way.
Virtually every pass Rees threw, from short to intermediate to the deep ball, was accurate. He tear-dropped several deep balls into the hands of the receiver in stride. A few of the slants were thrown slightly behind the receiver, but not bad enough to prompt a drop. About 10 minutes into the passing drills, Jones pulled up with what looked like a right hamstring injury and was encouraged by one of the NFL personnel to call it a day, which he did.
Martin, Watt and Golic were put through the offensive line paces by several different NFL reps. Martin, one of the rising names on NFL mock draft boards, showed once again why he's a top prospect. Everything Martin does on the football field tends to look effortless.
Running a drill in which the offensive lineman pulls and then picks up a stationary tennis ball in stride, Martin tripped and went to the ground. He turned the tumble into a somersault, landing on his feet and regaining his stride.
"I feel great," said Martin following the workout. "I think I've given myself an opportunity and now I'll play the waiting game to see where I land. It's a culmination of the last three or four years that we've been here and it pays off coming in here and working."
Meanwhile, on the other end of the field, Atkinson worked out in front of two and then one NFL draft rep, running through orange cones and blocking pads.
Shembo worked with defensive linemen Nix III and Schwenke. Shembo, after giving a maximum effort with the defensive linemen, then jumped into the linebacker drills with
Calabrese and Fox. Shembo excelled much more with the defensive linemen as he struggled catching the football in pass drops. Tuitt ambled over to the defensive linemen during the linebacker drills. Rees threw the passes.
"I feel great," said Nix, who during one drill worked head-up with Tomlin. "I weigh 331. I haven't been that light since 11th grade, so I feel like I'm back in high school. Just moving around. I feel like my step got better. My knee feels great since surgery. I think I'm doing great.
"I'm excited, but I'm more excited because my mother's happy going through the process. She likes hearing that her baby graduated and he's doing everything. I'm just going to do my best and hopefully get the best outcome."
Among the current players in attendance were Tony Springmann, Sheldon Day, Kendall Moore, Eilar Hardy, Austin Collinsworth, Jaylon Smith, Isaac Rochell, Chase Hounshell, Nick Martin, Kyle Brindza and Andrew Trumbetti.
Every Irish assistant coach made an appearance at some point during the two-plus hour event. Former players on hand included Kapron Lewis-Moore, Tyler Stockton, Jake Golic and Mike Golic Sr., who obviously was in attendance to observe his namesake. Overseeing the process was strength and conditioning coach Paul Longo, along with former Irish receiver David Grimes and the other strength and conditioning assistants.