Despite a hamstring problem, Michael Sam appeared to leave his pro day Thursday with what he needed most from the event: a better all-around performance than the one that raised questions at the NFL Scouting Combine last month. Sam, the NFL's first openly gay draft prospect, was unofficially timed at 4.69 Thursday in the 40-yard dash, significantly better than the 4.91 he turned in at the combine. The defensive end and SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year slightly injured his hamstring on the 40 and thus ran it only once instead of twice, which is customary at pro days.
But while the 40 is the glamour event that draws the most attention, it might not have been the event that drew the most attention from NFL scouts where Sam is concerned. NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah said after the combine that Sam's 25.5-inch vertical leap at the combine was a significant red flag as well, because it measures explosiveness, something Sam can't be lacking if he is to be an edge rusher in the NFL. Sam made a quantum leap in that area as well on Thursday with a 30-inch vertical, almost a 20 percent improvement in just four weeks since the combine. And while Sam's unofficial 40 time might ultimately be adjusted to something slower, vertical leaps aren't subject to unofficial interpretations.
Sam posted 11.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss last season for Missouri, leading the SEC in both categories.
Teammate Kony Ealy, also a defensive end and potentially a first-round draft pick, apparently improved on his 40 time as well. Ealy was unofficially timed at 4.57 in the 40-yard dash, vastly better than his 4.92 official clocking at the combine.