Ford-Wheaton opts for light Pro Day after strong showing at NFL Combine; Stills betters his bench press

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Less than a month ago, West Virginia wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton made a strong impression at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

So satisfied with his showing at the combine was Ford-Wheaton that on Monday, during West Virginia’s annual Pro Day at the Caperton Indoor Practice Facility, he opted not to partake in any of the official events — bench press, broad jump, vertical jump, 40-yard dash, 20-yard shuttle and three-cone drill.

At the NFL Combine, Ford-Wheaton, who stands nearly 6-foot-4, completed the 40 in 4.38 seconds. He also ecorded a 41-inch vertical jump during an eye-opening showing. 

Over the last 20 years, Seattle Seahawks wide receiver D.K. Metcalf and cornerback Tariq Woolen are the only players 6-3 or taller to break 4.4 seconds in the 40 and record a vertical of at least 40’.

“Every time you do what they say you can’t do, they’re going to add something on and you can’t do this now,” Ford-Wheaton said. “I’m still hearing it, but I’m still going to prove them wrong at the end of the day and just keep working.”

Instead of partaking in timed and measurable events, Ford-Wheaton showcased his route-running abilities and brought in passes from former Mountaineer quarterback Jarret Doege at Pro Day.

“He came up here on Thursday. We threw together Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We didn’t really need to do much else,” Ford-Wheaton said. “We knew we had the timing down because we played together so long.”

Ford-Wheaton wasn’t the only WVU receiver working with his previous signal-caller. So, too, was Sam James, who like Ford-Wheaton spent five seasons in Morgantown, including a 2018 redshirt season under former head coach Dana Holgorsen.

However, unlike Ford-Wheaton, James wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine, which only added to the importance of Pro Day at a venue he’d countless hours in previously.

“I thought I was disrespected and thought I should’ve been at the combine,” James said. “I was mad, but I prayed to God, found my peace and knew I was going to have an opportunity. I just went with it, stayed down and worked.”

James, at 5-11, ran the fastest of WVU’s five players to take part in the 40 Monday with a time of 4.5 flat. He also had a 36.5 inch vertical, 10’2 broad jump and 4.24 20-yard shuttle.

“I’m extremely satisfied with what I did today. I hit my goals and that was the biggest thing so I’m happy about it.”

Defensive lineman Dante Stills, who joined Ford-Wheaton as the Mountaineers’ two participants at the NFL Combine, repped 225 pounds 26 times on the bench press — six higher than his showing in Indianapolis.

Stills, who didn’t participate in timed drills or either jump Monday, had a reason behind his substantial increase in reps in Morgantown.

“I was going to get 24 or 25 reps [at the combine], but I hit the rack on the way up. I was going out of control and I kept scooting back on the bench and I hit the rack,” Stills recalled. “It messed up like my whole flow and I got 20. I wanted to do the bench and I felt like it definitely helped myself.”

At the combine, Stills ran a 4.85 40 and recorded a 28.5’ vertical with a 4.61 finish in the 20 shuttle.

“I have five years of film and feel like I did all I can,” Stills said.

Representatives from 28 of 32 NFL teams were on hand for Pro Day, in which eight WVU players from 2022 joined Doege and Morgantown native Maverick Wolfley as participants.

Outside of Stills, Ford-Wheaton and James, WVU defenders Jasir Cox, Exree Loe and Wesley McCormick joined tight end Brian Polenedy and kicking specialist Parker Grothaus as participants.

Cox ran a 4.59 40 with 20 reps on the bench press and a vertical jump of 39, while Loe was clocked at 4.71 on the bench.

McCormick, a 200-pound defensive back, had a 4.57 40 and equaled the 39-inch vertical Cox had.

Polendey, primarily a blocking tight end throughout his college career, joined Ford-Wheaton, James and Wolfley in pass-catching drills. 

Wolfley began his college football career with a brief stint at WVU and then transferred to Akron before winding up at Division II West Florida to conclude it.

They were thrown to by Doege, who played two years at Bowling Green, three at WVU in what were head coach Neal Brown’s first three seasons in Morgantown and then most recently one at Troy after originally moving on to Western Kentucky but transferring again in the fall.

“It’s good to throw to Bryce and Sam again. It’s good to be back,” Doege said. “I put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this place and I’m grateful that I got to do this pro day.”

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