Posted in Sports

Pro day a step towards professional football dreams for SFU alumni

Jordan Herdman, Justin Herdman, and Ante Milanovic-Litre — all seniors from the 2016 season — tested in front of NFL and CFL teams

Jordan and Justin Herdman, alongside Ante Milanovic-Litre, were put through their paces at the North Shore bubble complex.
Jordan and Justin Herdman, alongside Ante Milanovic-Litre, were put through their paces at the North Shore bubble complex.
Image Credits: Austin Cozicar

For Jordan Herdman, it seemed like it was all on the line Friday afternoon.

Having initially declined an invitation to the upcoming CFL Combine on March 2325 — a decision that didn’t seem to sit well with Geroy Simon, who was watching in an official capacity as a BC Lions scout — this would likely be the last physical testing before the NFL draft in April.

“Me and my agent came up with the decision that we felt like pro day was all we needed, so if you wanted to come see me, you would have to come out to my pro day,” said the two-time Great Northwest Athletic Conference defensive player of the year.

It was a bold move, and one that could certainly backfire with a poor performance and with the message it sends CFL teams.

So it would come down to one pro day at the North Shore bubble complex in front of representatives of six teams, two of them NFL — the Atlanta Falcons and the Arizona Cardinals — and four CFL teams — the BC Lions, Calgary Stampeders, Montreal Alouettes, and the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He, along with his brother Justin and fellow recent SFU alumnus Ante Milanovic-Litre, would be tested on a variety of combine drills.

So how did it go?

The results were mixed — at best — for Jordan. While he shot for a result between 4.6 and 4.7 seconds in the 40-yard dash, he put up a time of 5.03 seconds.

All three players struggled on the three-cone drill.

By Monday, the final test was no longer final. It seemed like the bold move had backfired. Jordan had reconsidered his decision, and was added to the list of players attending the CFL Combine.

The appearance at the time, however, was that the scouts were aware that Jordan and his brother show much better on game tape than they do in combine drills — they’re better in-game.

“These guys are not great testers, but their film and their testing numbers don’t really match up. The testing can’t be the only thing you look at with these guys. They’re not great testers, but when you see them on the field, they look fast, they play fast, and they play physical,” said Simon, who is now working with the team in charge of Canadian scouting.

“Jordan and Justin, I’m sure they’ll tell you that some of their testing numbers aren’t what they wanted them to be, but that’s sort of the way they are,” said SFU head coach Kelly Bates, who coached the Herdmans for two years. “What they are is — when you put them on the field in a middle of the game — is their speed changes, their anticipation, their instincts take over and that’s what makes them ball players.

“It’s nice to have these testing numbers, and it’s nice to do these testing events, but at the end of the day, the film doesn’t lie.”

And while it’s hard to get a read on what teams think, with the Atlanta scout — Shepley Heard, who is the Falcons’ western regional scout — running much of the drills and the day, it would seem that they must have had some legitimate interest before the event. Now, Jordan will have one more chance to show that he can test well.

For Justin, however, the pro day was always intended to be just the first test.

“I just feel that I need to get my name out there and I just need to show whoever’s watching that I can play at a high level, that I’m just ready to compete,” said Justin. “Definitely need to work on my three-cone, need to work on that, noticed I stumbled. Definitely clean that up before the CFL Combine.”

Both of the Herdmans seemed to do better and feel more comfortable in the linebacker drills — the drills testing their ability in positional situations, rather than straight speed.

“I wanted to leave them with my positional drills, my movement skills, just the linebacker drills, because that translates most to what we do on the field,” he explained. “To leave them with that last impression that I can move well and I can explode [is important].”

All three players impressed on the bench press, with Jordan and Milanovic-Litre putting up 23 reps, and Justin putting up 20.

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But the guy with the most to gain was probably Milanovic-Litre.

Milanovic-Litre was the only player of the three not invited directly to the national combine, but instead to the western regional combine on March 23 where he’ll have to perform well to earn an invite to the national.

With Jordan’s spotlight bringing NFL attention to the Lower Mainland, it was a great opportunity for the 5’11” running back — one with which he flew.

Putting up a 4.63-second 40-yard dash, he seemed to leave an impression on the talent evaluators.

“Ante ran a little better than I thought he would,” said Simon. “He caught the ball well, you could see his natural skills as a running back. I’m not sure he’ll play running back in our league, but he’ll have an opportunity, I think, in this league.”

For Milanovic-Litre, it was the culmination of his work over the past few months. He had planned out his schooling so he would graduate in the fall to dedicate his time to training, so he could make a full effort at chasing his dream.

“I knew I wanted to pursue a professional career, so that’s why I made those plans, why I made those arrangements, and saved up some money so I could train. That’s all I have been doing. I haven’t been in school, not focusing my energy on a job, because I basically got eight weeks to make my dream come true,” said Milanovic-Litre. “So I put all my effort, everything I can, so if it doesn’t work out, on my deathbed I’ll have the satisfaction that I gave everything.”

And he came in confident, knowing what to expect after attending an NFL Regional Combine in February, where he felt he left a good impression.

“I didn’t make a single drop,” he explained. “I went to the guy running the regional combine and asked if I could take reps at receiver because the running back drills were done and he let me. So I got to work out in two positions, and overall, I think I stood out.”

For the Herdmans and Milanovic-Litre, it’s a long process to realize their dreams to become professional football players. And it means a lot of drills, and a lot of testing — a lot of not just focusing on football, but the combine. But it’s that work that will make or break their careers.

“Once this is all over, we’ll go back to football,” said Justin. “I can’t wait.”

Testing:

Jordan Herdman
Weight: 234 lbs.
Height: 5’10.6”
Hand Size: 8.2”
Arm Length: 30.25”
Wing Span: 74.25”
Vertical Jump: 28.5”
Broad Jump: 9’4”
40-Yard Dash: 1.60s/ 2.84s/ 5.03s (10yards/20/40)
Pro Agility: 4.67s
3-Cone: 7.69s
60-yard shuttle: 12.55s
Bench Press: 23 reps

Justin Herdman
Weight: 229 lbs.
Height: 5’10.6”
Hand Size: 8.0”
Arm Length: 30.25”
Wing Span: 74.25”
Vertical Jump: 28.5”
Broad Jump: 8’10”
40-Yard Dash: 1.65s/ 2.90s/ 5.09s (10yards/20/40)
Pro Agility: 4.77s
3-Cone: 7.63s
60-yard shuttle: 12.37s
Bench Press: 20 reps

Ante Litre
Weight: 220 lbs.
Height: 5’11.7”
Hand Size: 9.5”
Arm Length: 30.75”
Wing Span: 72.25”
Vertical Jump: 36.5”
Broad Jump: 10’2”
40-Yard Dash: 1.60s/ 2.65s/ 4.63s (10yards/20/40)
Pro Agility: 4.47s
3-Cone: 7.31s
60-yard shuttle: 12.09s
Bench Press: 23 reps

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