It’s not often that Ivy League athletes make it big in the pros, but this Thursday three Yale football players — punter/kicker Tom Mante ’10, linebacker Travis Henry ’10 and tight end A.J. Haase ’10 — will have a chance to perform for NFL scouts.
At Yale’s NFL Pro Day workout at Coxe Cage, scouts will evaluate prospective players through their performances in the 40-yard dash, broad jump, vertical leap and 225-pound bench press, as well as a short mental aptitude test.
Henry said head football coach Tom Williams, a former assistant coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars, said that they had a good shot at signing on with an NFL team. (Williams did not return a phone message.)
Mante, who was named the All-Ivy punter last season with an average of 41.2 yards per punt and has been receiving NFL attention since his junior year, said that he, Henry and Haase have been training for the past 10 weeks for the event. Mante also served as the Elis’ place kicker but will be scouted as a punter by the NFL scouts.
“This is your one opportunity to shine so there is a little bit of pressure, but I’m more excited than anything,” he said. “There’s a lot of excitement and I’m thrilled to be out there and show them what I’ve got.”
Henry added that from Monday to Saturday, the three have been doing sprint workouts with the track team and have been lifting three times a week with the football team’s strength and conditioning coach.
The training regimen that the three athletes follow focuses on improving their explosiveness, which Henry said is the most important factors that the scouts will be looking for. He explained that a typical day of practice would take around five hours.
“It’s stressful at times because you want to have fun and there are a lot of sacrifices in getting ready for this — when everyone else is partying, you can’t — but it’s worth it,” Henry said. “[Coach Williams] thought the three of us had a high chance of making it and if he thinks it’s worth it then I think it’s worth it. I can’t look back 10 years from now and think, ‘What if?’ ”
Assistant Coach Duane Brooks, who organizes the Yale Pro Day each year, said he anticipates eight NFL teams at the event, including the New York Giants, New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts.
He added that because Yale and UConn are the only two schools in Connecticut that regularly host Pro Day workouts, he also expects at least 20 other athletes from area schools to participate.
But Brooks said that because Yale is not a big name school in football, it’s sometimes difficult to attract teams to the school’s Pro Day. However, he said, with Mante in the lineup, getting scouts to come should not be as much of a problem this year.
“He’s a legitimate NFL kicker so more people are going to be interested — you have to have a legitimate guy,” Brooks said.
Elis’ recent fortunes in the NFL has been somewhat rocky. Brooks said that on average, one Bulldog gets signed on by an NFL team each year and very few have go on to have lengthy careers, but that’s the case with many schools across the country.
Last year, the Kansas City Chiefs invited former captain Bobby Abare ’09 to participate in their mini-camp, but he was released in July. He later accepted an assistant coaching position at Wagner.
The most recent Bulldog to be selected in the NFL draft was Nate Lawrie ’04, a sixth-round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After only four receptions for 43 yards with three different teams in five seasons, Lawrie left the NFL and now plays in the United Football League with the California Redwoods.
In total, 22 Yalies have joined the NFL since the league’s inception in 1922. Five have been named NFL All-Pros, and four have won Super Bowl rings, including Calvin Hill ’69, who became the first running back in Dallas Cowboys history to surpass 1,000 yards rushing in 1972.
Correction: March 24, 2010
An earlier version of this article misspelled the last name of A.J. Haase ’10.