While it hasn’t always shown up in the wins column, evidence of the growth of the University at Buffalo football program could be seen Tuesday inside the Buffalo Bills’ Fieldhouse.
It was there that more than 20 scouts from 18 NFL teams came — stopwatches in hand — to watch former Bulls Steven Means, Willie Moseley and Gio Ozkan take part in UB Pro Day. Also in attendance were Bills General Manager Buddy Nix, Assistant GM Doug Whaley and head coach Doug Marrone.
“It shows that we have a lot of teams at that next level that have a great interest in our players,” said UB coach Jeff Quinn. “All the things I’ve been hearing have been very positive in terms of how the guys have been training, working hard and really showcasing their talent in front of these scouts.”
Means, in particular, was turning heads. While each scout keeps — and closely guards — his own times, several said they clocked him in the 4.6-second range in the 40-yard dash.
“He ran really, really well,” said one AFC scout.
“Means absolutely looked the part today,” said another scout from an NFC team.
A two-time All-Western New York selection at Grover Cleveland under coach Tony Alessi, Means finished his UB career last season with 18.5 sacks, fourth most in school history (dating to 1982).
He weighed in at 6-foot-3½, 257 pounds Tuesday, and will likely play linebacker at the next level.
“I felt like I tested pretty good with the scouts,” he said. “The way I’m holding my weight and the way I’m moving, they were real impressed by that.”
Means, who took over as a starter midway through his freshman season with UB, was in his comfort zone Tuesday. The former basketball player and track and field athlete has always counted his athleticism as one of his biggest attributes.
“It’s a test of athleticism and that’s what I feed off of,” he said. “I’m athletic enough to do these drills and be real good at them.”
Means was particularly impressive in coverage drills, showing fluid change-of-direction speed and good hands.
“Whatever I’ve got to do for the team,” he said with a laugh when asked if he was auditioning to be a defensive back. “I’ll snap the ball if I’ve got to.”
Means and Moseley both worked out for their Pro Day at Proformance Sports Training in the Northtown Center under John Opfer, whose list of clients also includes former UB and Bills receiver Naaman Roosevelt.
Last year, three former Bulls — Trevor Scott in New England, James Starks in Green Bay and Josh Thomas in Carolina — played in the NFL, while another, Jamey Richard, spent the season on the Patriots’ injured reserve list.
“When I first came here in 2010, it was James Starks. We were going through a transition,” Quinn said. “There were a lot of scouts that were coming on campus and looking at James and I think that brought a lot of attention to those other kids, too.”
“It says a lot about the UB program and where we’re going as far as athletes,” said Moseley, who started eight games as a senior for the Bulls.
The lanky, 6-4, 246-pounder fits as an inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. He ran his 40 Tuesday in the 4.7-second range.
“That’s where I feel comfortable,” he said. “I wanted to come out here and show them my speed. They know I can put the weight on.”
Ozkan, a right tackle, did 19 repetitions on the 225-pound bench press and ran his 40 in the 5.3-second range. He’s lost about 10 pounds from his playing weight of 325 last season, and says he feels leaner.
“Hopefully something comes up,” he said following his workout. “I do feel good about having a lot of teams coming up to see me and the other guys.”
Quinn wore a big smile Tuesday as he discussed the contributions of the three players.
“I really appreciate the way all three of them provided this football team leadership throughout their career, but you could really see it emerge this past year,” he said.
The Bulls have 22 players who will be seniors in the 2013 season, including pro prospects at wide receiver (Alex Neutz), running back (Branden Oliver) and linebacker (Khalil Mack).
Among the other players working out Tuesday for scouts were former UB basketball player Byron Mulkey, who tried out for the Bills last season as a defensive back, as well as Alfred free safety Jon Jackson (a Bishop Timon-St. Jude graduate), and Buffalo State linebacker Pasquale Vacchio.
Vacchio was an All-Empire 8 first-team selection after his senior year, in which he made 118 tackles.