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Two former CU Buffs impress NFL scouts at pro day

Mustafa Johnson, William Sherman work out for scouts in preparation for April's NFL draft

BOULDER, CO – October 21, 2020:  Offensive lineman William Sherman during Colorado football practice. (Courtesy photo/University of Colorado)
BOULDER, CO – October 21, 2020: Offensive lineman William Sherman during Colorado football practice. (Courtesy photo/University of Colorado)

Colorado’s annual pro timing day didn’t draw the usual crowd – except those who mattered most.

On Monday, 24 scouts from 23 NFL teams were in Boulder to watch former CU stars Mustafa Johnson and William Sherman work out, as they hope to hear their names called during the draft April 29-May 1.

“All in all, I was very impressed with how they looked,” CU head coach Karl Dorrell said. “They look to be in great shape and they look to be impressing some people.”

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, friends, family, current Buffs and media were unable to attend pro day. It was also a much smaller group of participants, as CU usually has 10 or more seniors working out for scouts. Often, there are players from other area schools participating, as well.

CU had a small senior class last year, however, and several of those players elected to take advantage of the NCAA granting an extra year of eligibility. Johnson, a defensive lineman, is the only senior from the 2020 team going to the draft, while Sherman, an offensive lineman, elected to skip his senior year and enter the draft early.

Both players were pleased with what they showed Monday.

Sherman, a three-year starter at right and left tackle, measured 6-foot-3 and 304 pounds. He had 23 reps on the 225-pound bench press, a 26-inch vertical leap, 9-foot broad jump and ran the 40-yard dash in 5.19 seconds.

Most important to Sherman, however, was showing his versatility. Although he played exclusively at tackle for the Buffs, he’s projected as an interior lineman in the NFL and has spent much of the winter working as a center. He was invited to the NFL Combine, but the annual event in Indianapolis was canceled because of COVID-19.

BOULDER, CO – October 2020: Defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson during Colorado football practice. (Courtesy photo/University of Colorado)

“That’s what I wanted to do today, to show teams that I can play all five spots,” Sherman said. “I got some reps at guard and I got the majority of my reps at center. So, without the combine taking place, position work today was a really, really big emphasis for me, so I’m glad that went well.”

Dorrell, who spent 11 of 12 seasons in the NFL before being hired at CU a year ago, said Sherman’s versatility will be a huge asset at the next level. Typically, NFL teams carry just seven offensive linemen into a game.

“You have to have guys that can play numerous spots, and I think William helped himself today by showcasing that he’s a player that can do those things,” Dorrell said.

Johnson was limited by a hamstring strain, but went through most drills and said, “I was able to get out there and show what I can do.”

A former junior college transfer who played three years at CU, Johnson measured 6-feet and 280 pounds Monday. He posted 27 reps in the 225-pound bench press, a 29-inch vertical leap and 8-foot-7 in the broad jump. He also had a time of 4.51 in the 20-yard shuttle and 7.18 in the three-cone drill.

At CU, Johnson earned All-Pac-12 honors three times, racking up 29 tackles for loss and 15 sacks. Johnson finished last season at about 292-293 pounds, but has dropped 14 pounds of fat and added two pounds of lean muscle, he said.

“The end goal wasn’t exactly to lose weight, but I did want to change my body to where I’m losing all the fat and becoming more muscle mass,” he said.

Although it was the smallest pro day CU has had in a while – and one of the smallest Dorrell said he’s ever seen – it allowed Johnson and Sherman to get plenty of attention from the scouts who were there.

“There’s (23) teams represented here, which is good to see for our two players,” Dorrell said. “That’s pretty impressive to get that type of attention.

“I think they both did a really good job of really putting their best out there.”

Typically, those participating in pro day get some motivation from their friends and teammates in attendance. This time, Johnson and Sherman leaned on each other.

“We don’t have our teammates there to cheer us on or have a little camaraderie with them,” Johnson said, “so it was comforting to have Will there with me and hear Will cheer me on and me cheer him on.”

Sherman added, “We definitely helped each other out with this weird COVID pro day.”

For Sherman, it was disappointing to not get the combine experience in Indianapolis, but he said the goal of being seen by scouts was still achieved.

“I still got to showcase my ability,” he said. “It’s been a crazy, crazy couple of years, so I just had to roll with this one, continue to keep pushing.”