It’s well documented that NFL stars don’t always come from the power five conferences, and sometimes don’t even make a lot of noise while in college.
Six-foot-4, 300-pound defensive lineman Karl Brooks and 6-3, 210-pound quarterback Matt McDonald did make a lot of noise during their careers at Bowling Green State University, so both are hoping to take the next step.
“I’ll just keep putting my head down, keep working and hoping I get an opportunity to get my foot in the door somewhere because I know I’ll make the most of it if I can get the opportunity,” McDonald said.
Ever since the Falcons finished their 6-7 season, losing to New Mexico State, 24-19, at the Quick Lane Bowl at Ford Field in downtown Detroit, the pair has been working out.
“Right after our bowl game on December 27, I was in Florida December 28,” Brooks said. “I’ve been down there ever since, up until March 10, down there training, eating right, making sure I’m going to bed early.
“It has definitely been a grind. I’ve seen changes in my body and my work ethic and the way I perform, but it’s heading in the right direction.”
Monday morning, BGSU hosted its pro day, inviting scouts from NFL programs.
Nearly every NFL team, and some Canadian Football League franchises, were represented at Perry Field House as nine former Falcons, one-by-one, had their speed timed, skills checked, and strength measured.
McDonald was pleased that Brooks was there because Brooks is already projected to be drafted in the third or fourth round.
“He did great,” McDonald said. “It was great having him because there were a lot more scouts to see him, so it was great for me to get a little more exposure.”
Brooks already has exposure after becoming the sixth Falcon all-time to appear in the prestigious Reese’s Senior Bowl. He says he got a chance to talk to all 32 NFL programs at the Senior Bowl, and recognized some of the same scouts at BGSU’s pro day.
Brooks (Lansing, Mich.), a first-team All-American by Pro Football Focus, is the highest graded (93.4) edge defender in FBS this season. Brooks was eighth in the nation with 10 sacks and ninth with 18 tackles for loss.
His 49 hurries and 69 total pressures per PFF ranks first in the nation among all NCAA Division I FBS defenders. Brooks created a pressure 17.8 percent of his pass rushes. His 10 sacks (in 2022) and 27.5 career sacks both rank third on BGSU’s single-season and career lists.
Brooks weighed in at 295 pounds prior to the pro day activities, but says he was five pounds lighter partly because of the transition to cold weather after he arriving from Florida, which presented some minor health challenges. Still, he was satisfied with his performance.
“I feel today was a good showing. I was fortunate enough to compete and put up good numbers, which I am happy about,” Brooks said. “I just want to see me compete and do the best I can, honestly. It’s been a great experience.”
He was measured with 32-inch arms, a 77-inch wingspan and had a vertical leap of 26½ inches. He wants NFL teams to know “his willingness to compete (through adversity)” is what drives him.
At BGSU, McDonald finished his career ninth all-time in program history with 5,921 passing yards. The NFL has plenty of film and other information to consider, but during pro day he had limited minutes to add an exclamation point to his college career.
“I thought it went well,” McDonald said. “I prepared hard these last three months and I put in the work, so it is just about going out and executing. I had a couple throws I wish I had back but ultimately, I was happy with my performance.”
Brooks and McDonald both had family in attendance at Pro Day, including Brooks’ parents and sister, and McDonald’s father Paul, who was a standout QB at USC and played in the NFL.
“It means a lot. My mom and dad and my little sister, they’ve always been there every step of the way,” Brooks said. “For them to be here on one of those important days of my life it just absolutely means a lot.”
From the defensive side of the ball, other Falcons participating in pro day, which began at the SEBO Athletic Center weight room before transitioning to Perry Field House, were 6-1, 195-pound safety Chris Bacon, 6-0, 250-pound interior linebacker Bryce Brand, 6-1, and 235-pound interior linebacker D.J. Taylor.
Also participating from BGSU’s offense were 6-3, 215-pound wide receiver C.J. Lewis, 6-1, 310-pound center Jakari Robinson, and 6-4, 240-pound tight end Christian Sims.
In 2022, Sims (Norcross, Ga.) turned in a comparable season to the 2021 campaign when he earned first-team accolades. Sims was second on the team with 41 receptions for 402 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
His third-and-long catch for 35 yards in the closing minute at Toledo set up the game-winning score by Keith. He was third in the league among tight ends his senior year with 45 catches for 485 yards and had at least three receptions in 11 of the 12 games in which he played.
Also invited to pro day was Alabama A&M 5-11, 185-pound cornerback Diata Burns, who graduated from BGSU before transferring.
Lewis’ 38-inch vertical leap was the highest among those participating, followed by Sims (36½), Bacon (34), Taylor (30½), Burns (30), Brooks, and Brandt (26).