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Date Posted: 17:44:39 02/18/17 Sat
Athletic Dept. Expects Increased Attention for Pro Day
By LASZLO B. HERWITZ, CRIMSON STAFF WRITER March 10, 2016
Thursday is a big day for Harvard‚Äôs Athletic Department. ESPN will likely be on campus, as will NFL.com. A horde of scouts will start their day across the river at the athletic facilities at 9 a.m.‚ÄĒall for the football team‚Äôs ‚ÄúPro Day.‚ÄĚ
Most years, the football team hosts a conditioning and practice exhibition for its top players so NFL scouts and the media can catch a glimpse ahead of them ahead of the NFL‚Äôs annual draft. However, a duo of high profile players has the athletic department expecting an unusually large turnout.
Strength and Conditioning Director James L. Frazier, who planned Pro Day this year, said the expected increase in media attention for the exhibition would put it in line with a season that has received heightened coverage more generally.
‚ÄúTraditionally, Pro Day‚Äôs biggest challenge has been attracting interest in the event,‚ÄĚ Frazier said. ‚ÄúThis year, we have two big players, which has generated much more attention.‚ÄĚ
Ben Braunecker ‚Äô16, who plays tight end, and Cole Toner ‚Äô16, an offensive lineman, are both seen as legitimate NFL prospects.
While Braunecker won‚Äôt participate in all the drills at Pro Day, according to Assistant Director of Athletic Communications Allison L. Miller, he will help attract attention to some of the lesser known players coming out. Miller expects in total 5-10 Harvard players and 3-4 athletes from smaller schools to attend.
‚Äú[Braunecker‚Äôs] performance at the [NFL] Combine has sparked a lot of interest and his appearance at the Combine has contributed to increased media and scout attention,‚ÄĚ Miller said.
Unlike other football programs that regularly send multiple players to the NFL Combine‚ÄĒthe league‚Äôs annual skills demonstration camp for top potential draft picks‚ÄĒthe Crimson has a smaller presence at the Combine, and currently only counts seven total alumni playing in the NFL.
Miller said Harvard‚Äôs Pro Day originated as a means of showcasing the abilities of Harvard football players who may not have been invited to the Combine and can benefit from additional exposure and time with scouts.
As part of the athletics communications staff, Miller is responsible for notifying media outlets about Harvard‚Äôs Pro Day.
‚ÄúWe notify various media outlets about big time prospects in an effort to generate interest and coverage,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚Äú[It] serves as another opportunity to get our student athletes in front of media as they transition to a professional career.‚ÄĚ
Miller predicted significant scout and media turnout this year, including ESPN, which she said is coming to Harvard‚Äôs Pro Day for the first time, largely due to Braunecker‚Äôs standout Combine performance.
Frazier has been planning the event for months, scouring Harvard‚Äôs database of scout information to compile an email list for invitations and determining the best date that aligns with other local teams‚Äô Pro Days and the availability of Harvard Stadium‚Äôs own indoor practice ‚Äúbubble.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúWe start by trying to figure out the best possible date, taking into account considerations about the bubble, when are the other schools in the Northeast having their Pro Days, and the University‚Äôs spring break schedule,‚ÄĚ Frazier said.
Frazier coordinates with Miller and the rest of the Communications department to invite scouts to the event.
Pro Day itself is packed full of activities. Miller will go over the itinerary with scouts at 9 a.m., and then the scouts will meet with the coaches at 9:30 a.m. Then, the day‚Äôs program starts in the weight room with conditioning tests, before moving into the bubble for skill drills, which last for most of the day.
For Miller, the fact that Harvard‚Äôs athletes have the homefield advantage on Pro Day is not insignificant.
‚ÄúI think our athletes feel comfortable and more focused here under the bubble,‚ÄĚ she said.
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