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Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Kansas’ Kyron Johnson, Kwamie Lassiter II and other seniors prepare for NFL in pro day

Kansas defensive end Kyron Johnson goes through a drill during the pro day workout at the indoor practice facility on March 9, 2022.

Kansas defensive end Kyron Johnson goes through a drill during the pro day workout at the indoor practice facility on March 9, 2022.

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For Kwamie Lassiter II, the Kansas football team's pro day event on Wednesday was all about validation.

The wide receiver was one of six players who participated in the annual showcase, a workout for more than a dozen NFL scouts held at the Jayhawks' indoor practice facility.

Each was put through a series of drills meant to highlight their athleticism, including the 40-yard dash, a three-cone drill and position-specific workouts, as their readiness to play professionally was assessed.

Lassiter, the Jayhawks' leading receiver last season with 59 catches for 653 yards and three touchdowns, was pleased.

"It was rewarding," he said. "It was motivating. They said I've got control of my body and I've got good hands. Those are things I already knew about myself, but to hear it from somebody else? That was good to hear."

Joining Lassiter were defensive end Kyron Johnson, left guard Malik Clark, safety Ricky Thomas Jr. and cornerback Jeremy Webb, as well as Baker running back and Lawrence High grad JD Woods.

Johnson has the bench chance of the six to be drafted by an NFL team in late April as he was the only one selected to participate in the Senior Bowl, a collegiate all-star game, last month.

He believed he had already proven to teams what he could do, so his goal was to run a fast time in the 40-yard dash — potentially something as low as 4.29 seconds, which he said he had clocked during a workout leading up to Wednesday's event.

Although Johnson fell short of that goal, hitting 4.36 and 4.39 seconds in his two attempts, those times would have made him the fastest defensive end or linebacker at the NFL Scouting Combine last week — an event he was not selected to compete in.

"I was nervous," said Johnson, who led the Jayhawks with 6.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss last season. "I just didn't want to make a fool of myself. I wanted to show out and show people that I may not be one of these main-name people, but I'm going to show you why I can be a main-name person. I do it with my work ethic and the stuff that I do, the speed that I have, the qualities that I have that I can play any position."

Perhaps the biggest surprise for Johnson was what the scouts wanted to see. An outside linebacker who moved to defensive end last season, he was also asked to join Thomas and Webb in drills meant for defensive backs.

Johnson envisions himself playing inside or weakside linebacker in the NFL, should he make it that far, but is open to a position change in order to get there.

"I surprise myself all the time, so what I do is stuff that I don't even think I could do but yet I do it anyway," Johnson said. "I can't really put it into words, but man, it's just a blessing."

Clark, who started nine games last season and 40 during his time with the Jayhawks, said he woke up Wednesday morning with "butterflies in the stomach." He regretted that he didn't perform as well as he would have liked in the bench press but didn't know any of his final times or measurements immediately after the event ended.

"As a young kid, you pray and hope for this moment and you're finally here, so it seems unreal at first when you wake up," Clark said. "But once you start seeing the scouts and stuff in the weight room, getting active and stuff like that, you know you've got a purpose for this. You can do this. It felt just like I had a game or something today."

Woods, a three-time All-American at Baker who set the NAIA career rushing record after last season with 6,666 yards, was especially pleased with his workout. Whereas Lassiter and Johnson had been training in Florida and Texas, respectively, Woods had been doing his preparation at Rock Chalk Park.

"I came out here and performed and gave it my best," said Woods, who graduated from LHS in 2016. "I talked to every team today and they all said they like me and they'll be in touch, which is a big plus, especially coming from a small school."

He and Lassiter were the final two players on the field as they were asked to simulate punt and kickoff returns by catching balls shot through a JUGS machine.

Lassiter had the highlight of the afternoon when he leapt to catch a ball thrown down the sideline and crashed through a rope meant to keep spectators off the field.

"For me, it's not (about) getting here," Lassiter said. "It's getting to the next step and being successful, so I'm not done yet."

Comments

Jeremy LeMaster 3 months, 2 weeks ago

It seems that his 4.36 would have been the fastest 40 time for a linebacker in combine history had he been invited and performed the same.

Isaiah Simmons (a Kansas kid that played at Clemson from edge rusher to linebacker, nickel and safety ran a 4.39

Micah Parsons also ran a 4.39

Shaquem Griffin TD an the fastest at 4.38

Devin Bush and Devin White both ran in the 4.42/3 range with Devin White supposedly running a 4.37 away from the combine.

Speed wise, Kyron should get a shot to make a team and would be a fast linebacker in the mold of some recent young standouts.

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