Players, athletic department in conflict over pro-day

Senior cornerback Janoris Jenkins celebrates after scoring a touchdown on a fumble recovery against Abilene Christian. Jenkins is expected to be selected in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft.

UNA student athletes have expressed concern about the delayed planning of pro-day, which is being held today starting at 9 a.m. at the Bill Jones Athletic Complex.

Steadman Campbell, running-back coach and recruiting coordinator for UNA, said the date for pro-day was set later than usual this year.

“The date got set a lot later this year as opposed to years passed just because of the turnover in head coaches,” he said.

The late planning caused some to believe pro-day might not happen at all this year, several players said.

DeAndre Morgan, a cornerback who transferred to UNA from North Carolina State, said he has not been contacted by UNA athletics about pro-day. He said he only knew about the event because he was told by another player, Bryan Thomas.

“(The communication) wasn’t from coach to player; it was from player to player,” Morgan said.

Bryan Thomas, who played as a defensive back for UNA in 2010 and 2011 after transferring from the University of Florida, said he made a lot of phone calls on the players’ behalf.

“I was really pushing for us to have a pro-day,” he said.

Campbell said he wanted to ensure UNA picked the best possible day for its pro-day. UNA’s pro-day will be immediately following Auburn University’s and the University of Alabama’s pro-days, which were held March 6 and 7.

“I heard from Bryan and a lot of our guys, and like I told them at the time we were planning on having one; it was just a matter of getting the right date,” Campbell said.

Mark Linder, director of athletics at UNA, said, with the change in staff, the coaches were busy with recruiting and preparing for the upcoming year.

“I’m sure (pro-day) just wasn’t on the radar screen,” he said.

Thomas said he felt like the situation could have been handled better. He said it seemed like the athletics department put the players on the back-burner.

This is not the first time Thomas has had issues dealing with UNA Athletics.

Thomas, along with UNA’s Antwone Greenlee, Daron Rose and Marcus Dowtin, played in the Battle of Florida All-Star game in Boca Raton, Fla., held Jan. 21. Dowtin, a transfer from Georgia who played as a linebacker for the Lions in 2011, was named Most Valuable Player for the South team.

Dowtin and Thomas said getting UNA equipment to wear for the game was difficult. They claim the UNA athletics department was uncooperative, and that the organizer of the game had to call Mark Linder to ensure the players would be able to get equipment. Thomas said his travel plans were delayed because of waiting on the equipment.

Linder said the players wanted UNA to ship the equipment, which was an added cost. Since Thomas was the only player who was in Florence at the time, they asked Thomas to sign a release form for the equipment and be responsible for bringing the equipment to the game and getting it back to UNA.

“It’s university equipment; it’s not like we can just hand it out,” he said.

The players said they feel like the resistance they faced in getting equipment for the Battle of Florida game reflects the way the department is handling things overall.

“The only reason that pro-day is going on is because of the senior class and Coach Campbell,” Dowtin said.

Despite the difficulty in planning pro-day this year, the players and coaches are excited that it’s finally here.

“I think it’s a good opportunity for me to showcase my talent,” said Terrell Bailey, a cornerback who started at Troy University and has played for UNA since 2009.

Bailey said he is looking forward to going toe-to-toe with Janoris Jenkins.

Jenkins, a transfer from the University of Florida, played as a cornerback for UNA during the 2011 season. He is projected to be a first-round NFL draft pick. Jenkins attended the NFL Combine in Indianapolis held Feb. 22 to 28, where he ran a 4.46 second 40-yard dash.

“Anytime you have a potential first round pick, it’s always exciting,” Linder said.

Campbell said he thinks that Jenkins will draw a larger crowd this year. He said he expects 12 to 15 scouts to attend this year and 20 to 25 players to participate.

During the event, the players will be evaluated by NFL Scouts in various exercises. The players’ height and weight will be measured. They will then perform a broad jump, vertical jump, maximum bench press, 40-yard dash, L-Drill, and shuttle run.

Dowtin said he thinks Jenkins’ talent combined with others’ talent will make for a big pro-day.

“This is going to be the biggest pro-day UNA has ever seen,” Dowtin said. “I already think this year we’re going to break the record for the most UNA players put on a NFL team.”

@FlorAlaSports will be at the event doing live coverage of the players’ results. Also look for an overall story tonight at