As recently as two weeks ago, former Idaho State wide receiver Michael Dean thought he still had a chance to participate in ISU’s pro day, which was scheduled for April 3 and would have given 10 Bengal football alums one last chance to impress professional scouts.
Then, the high school where he was coaching track — his alma mater, Chaffey High in California — announced that it would be shutting down for three weeks in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, and the other shoe dropped for Dean.
Shortly after, Idaho State strength coach Dan Ryan texted him to say that the pro day was postponed — and then, not long after that, canceled.
“It all happened pretty quick,” Dean said. “For me, (it was) just realizing everything that was going on, how serious everything was, and then we got the text message. It kind of made my heart sink, for sure. I’d already been training for seven or eight weeks straight, and it was just kind of a letdown.”
In a sport increasingly defined by analytics and data, pro days and combine-style workouts have grown more important in determining football players’ post-college futures, which can often be defined by tenths of a second, the smallest sliver of a stopwatch interval.
That’s especially true for small-school players like Dean, who, like all FCS players, wasn’t seen live by many scouts and faces questions about the quality of competition he played.
With no chance to work out in a structured setting at ISU, Dean took matters into his own hands, posting video on April 1 of a private pro day at Pacific Athletic Center in Claremont, California — and the numbers certainly answered any questions about Dean’s athleticism.
With the caveat that all of his drills were hand-timed, Dean put up four marks that would have ranked in the top five of all wide receivers tested at the NFL Scouting Combine.
His pro agility drill time of 4.08 seconds would have led the group, with his 40-yard dash of 4.30 second behind Alabama blazer Henry Ruggs. Dean didn’t just show his speed — his 20 bench press reps of 225 pounds would have been tied for fourth among all receivers, and his vertical jump of 40 inches tied for fifth.
With all pro days getting canceled, we had to get it done another way. This journey has given me a great opportunity and I’m excited to see what to come.— Michael (@mikeydean5) April 2, 2020
Pro agility: 4.08
L Cone: 6.88
Bench: 20 reps at 225 @ISUBengals pic.twitter.com/xkApCiqzho
“I had a pretty good feeling that I would (run well), just from my track background,” Dean said. “Even with that, I thought, before training for the 40, it was going to be similar, and it’s honestly not. You kind of change it up, your first 10 yards are a little different. ... A lot of things to get you in the right angles, as far as shin angles, making sure that’s all in place. Like, every angle has to be perfect when running your 40, in the first couple steps.”
In the uncertainty of a coronavirus-affected world, the workout was Dean’s final audition. His stats and tape from Idaho State are one part of his resume, his performance at the postseason Hula Bowl — where he scored his team’s only touchdown — is another. Now the final piece of the puzzle is in place, and all Dean can do is wait.
“It’s really tough,” Dean said. “As of right now, the NFL hasn’t said anything, but just talking to people, the rookie minicamps probably won’t happen. I think that was a way to really get my foot in the door. If I was able to get a rookie minicamp invite, I think that would have been a great way for me to get noticed. ... This is all-new territory for everyone.”
Before high school athletics were brought to a halt by the coronavirus, Dean was enjoying his time coaching at Chaffey, where he was a football and track star in high school.
The school, where his grandfather is the head athletic trainer, asked him to come back after he graduated from ISU in December.
“It was really cool,” Dean said. “Last year, the boys track team, they didn’t win any meets. This year, we went undefeated, we went 2-0 before it got canceled. ... They want me to stick around and coach football. I would really love to do that. It was a cool experience, being able to share my knowledge with others and help the track team be better.”
Before his coaching career takes off, though, Dean is hoping he’ll still have a chance to play somewhere.
“One of the things (my agent) stands by is, make your first impression a good impression,” Dean said. “So he was kind of waiting until my pro day to put all of my numbers together, plus my film, and send it out to all the scouts and GMs, all that. Now that he has that, he’s going to send it out to them, and I guess we’ll see what happens from here.”