ARIZONA FOOTBALL

Unheralded Booth gets chance to shine

Senior stuck behind 3 other RBs excels at pro timing day
2010-03-13T00:00:00Z 2014-09-15T09:03:15Z Unheralded Booth gets chance to shineRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 13, 2010 12:00 am  • 

As Nick Booth ran the 40-yard dash Friday, the Arizona Wildcats tailback reminded himself to run through the finish line.

Twice during the UA's pro timing day on campus, Booth blew past the line; twice, he crashed full-speed into a padded wall.

"I hurt my left wrist a little bit," he said with a grin. "I heard some bolts come loose, too."

The Wildcats' senior tailback felt no pain, however, after posting matching times of 4.4 seconds in the 40.

Booth said the pro-day performance was probably the highlight of his college career. The Wildcats' fourth-string tailback had just 51 Div. 1 carries for 209 yards and three touchdowns in two seasons after transferring from College of DuPage (Ill.).

"The whole week, I was scratching at my itch and biting my tongue to get out here Friday and do as well as I can," he said.

Safety Cam Nelson couldn't have been prouder.

"I told you all week he was going to be the big shocker," Nelson said with a smile. "He ran well, he benched well, and he did everything else well."

Booth wasn't the only unheralded player to stand out Friday. H-Back Brandon Lopez, a 2009 graduate looking for a break, put up a team-high 36 reps in the bench press. Special-teamer Orlando Vargas led all current Wildcats with 32.

Their performances stole the attention from the three UA players most likely to be drafted: tight end Rob Gronkowski, defensive tackle Earl Mitchell and cornerback Devin Ross.

Mitchell participated in the three-cone drill, posting a time of 7.31 seconds - three-tenths of a second faster than his time at last month's NFL combine.

Mitchell is sure to be taken in April's draft; the question is, which team will take him - and where will he play. Mitchell participated in both offensive and defensive drills Friday, leaving the door open for a career as a fullback or H-Back.

"I wouldn't be surprised," Mitchell said. "A lot of teams spoke to me about my versatility."

Ross needed to improve his 40-yard dash time Friday but didn't. The cornerback was clocked at 4.6 seconds on both his runs, the same time he posted at the combine.

Ross, who expects to be taken between the third and fifth rounds, said he was "pretty comfortable" with the time.

"Other than that, I did pretty well at everything else," he said.

Gronkowski, still recovering from fall back surgery, met with scouts Friday but did not participate in pro-day drills. Arizona will hold a pro day especially for him March 28.

The tight end is viewed by many as a first- or second-round selection. First, he must improve his 40-yard dash time.

"I'm in the 4.7s right now; I'm trying to get into the high-4.6s," he said. "I can't wait for the (pro) day."

He could learn a lot about pro-day performances from Booth.

Sporting a faux-hawk and focused-but-fun-loving attitude, Booth was able to thrive where most wilt. It was a far cry from the 2009 season, when Booth backed up Nicolas Grigsby, Keola Antolin and Greg Nwoko.

"It was a bad time for him with three, four good backs - Keola, 'Grigs' and Greg - but he'll get his opportunity," Nelson said. "Everything happens for a reason."

Booth didn't have to look far Friday for inspiration.

Tailback Chris Jennings was among the dozen former Wildcats who watched pro day. Like Booth, Jennings was a junior college transfer who received few opportunities in college. Jennings turned his 2008 pro day into a contract with the CFL's Montreal Alouettes. The Cleveland Browns purchased Jennings' contract in the fall, and he played in nine NFL games in 2009.

After Friday, Booth could get a similar shot.

"The worst feeling in the world would have been coming out here and not doing well," Booth said. "This is probably the biggest day of our lives."

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