Miami football players flex skills for pro scouts

Sam+Sloman

Photo by Miami Athletics

Sam Sloman lines up a field goal during a game this past season.

By Brady Pfister

Scouts from 17 NFL teams watched Miami football players work out Monday as the graduating RedHawks tried to convince them that they have what it takes to play at the professional level.

Representatives from teams including the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers watched Miami players test their vertical leap, bench press and other drills.

The prospect of most interest to scouts was kicker Sam Sloman. According to SB Nation, a sports network owned by VOX Media, Sloman is one of the top five kickers in this year’s draft class.

Kickers rarely, if ever are selected in the actual NFL Draft — in 2019 only two kickers were drafted. However, many kickers are invited to rookie training camp as a way to try out for a team. Sloman said he expects to receive an invitation to a camp with a solid opportunity to make the roster.

 

In Sloman’s senior year, the Roswell, Georgia native was named a Second Team All-American after connecting on 26 of his 30 field goals while hitting all 34 extra points he had the shot at. As a result, he is garnering some significant NFL attention.

Since the season ended in January, Sloman has been working out daily while also traveling to Cincinnati three times a week to train with a kicking specialist. He said he has had a private workout for scouts from the Jets and Panthers.

The NFL hype does not surprise Sloman’s head coach Chuck Martin.

“If he kicks as accurately for them as he did for us, he’s going to be an NFL kicker for a long time,” Martin said. “He can do all the things they need him to do.”

Martin said that Sloman has all the tools and NFL kicker needs. On-field goal attempts, he lifts the ball high enough so that it will not be batted down on the line of scrimmage. During kickoffs, he can hang the ball high enough to let his teammates get down the field to make a tackle.

He also has shown a good amount of power — he prevented a return on 52 of his 75 kickoffs during 2019.

The big leg of Sloman was on full display Monday, as he nailed a 61-yard field goal with scouts and his teammates looking on. For some perspective, the NFL record for a field goal is 64 yards. In the college game, the longest field goal made in 2019 was from 62 yards out. For Sloman, that was a special moment.

“It was pretty cool to turn around after a field goal and see all those people watching me,” Sloman said. “That’s something I never really thought was possible.”

In reality, Sloman has been impressive his entire senior year. His 53-yard field goal at Ohio University sealed the rivalry win for Miami. Sloman hit four out of four field goals in the Mid-American Conference Championship and won the team’s most valuable player award.

Sloman was joined by other Miami teammates looking to advance their NFL hopes though, in reality, it has been an uphill battle for RedHawks to be drafted. The last Miami player to be drafted was Marquez Williams in 2017. Since 2012, only four former Miami players have been drafted.

However, one RedHawk who turned heads was kick and punt returner Maurice Thomas. Thomas, an Oxford native, recorded a 35.5-inch vertical jump and later ran the 40-yard dash in 4.44 seconds.

Thomas came into Miami with high potential as a running back or wide receiver, but due to injury ended up playing almost exclusively on special teams where he became a Second Team All-MAC punt returner.

As a result, Martin believes Thomas has some upside.

“I think he has a shot to make it,” Martin said.

Another player Martin thought will be wearing an NFL uniform is defensive tackle, Doug Costin. Monday, Costin bench pressed 225 pounds, 24 times and ran the 10-yard shuttle in 4.45 seconds.

The 10-yard shuttle is a drill where a player tests their short bursts of speed. Last week at the NFL Combine, the fastest time by a defensive lineman was 4.31 seconds.

In Martin’s opinion, however, what Costin brings to the table goes beyond the measurables that scouts look for this time of year.

“Costin for sure, to me, is an NFL player,” Martin said. “If he gets an opportunity, he can play.”

In his senior year, Costin earned First Team All-MAC accolades while racking up four sacks, 12 tackles for loss and 59 total tackles. To Martin, if he can land on an NFL roster before the season begins, he is confident he can stick around.

With the NFL draft taking place on the last weekend of April, it is doubtful that Sloman, Thomas or Costin will be selected in the draft, but have legitimate chances to be signed to rookie camp with a chance to try out for a full-time roster spot.

In Sloman’s mind, he said he put his best foot forward to make that a reality.

“You really can’t ask for much more than what happened today.”