ORONO — There was nothing quiet about Trevor Bates’ return to the University of Maine campus Monday.

Ten NFL scouts showed up to greet the Westbrook native, the star attraction of the football team’s annual pro day. Last year there was only one scout.

“It felt like my first career start against Boston College. Kind of all that anxiety and pressure,” Bates said after completing a series of drills. “It turned to excitement when you get out here, but you work so hard and you’re always focusing on this. It’s a big day.”

Bates excelled at defensive end for the Black Bears but projects to play linebacker if he makes it to the NFL. Whether that’s in the middle of a 4-3 scheme or as a pass-rushing specialist will be up to the team that drafts him or signs him as a free agent. Bates said he’s intrigued teams with both possibilities, and has private workouts scheduled Wednesday for the Colts and Vikings.

Those teams had scouts on hand Monday to watch nine players lift weights, jump and run. Other teams represented were the 49ers, Bills, Chiefs, Jaguars, Jets, Packers, Patriots and Raiders.

In Bates they saw a more toned athlete than Maine fans saw in past years. He’s spent the past three months in Tampa, Florida, working out with coaches and 20 other draft hopefuls, gaining speed, losing a little weight (down to 244 from 250 on his 6-foot-2 frame) and working on the footwork necessary to play linebacker in the NFL.

The Colts’ scout kept him after the regular drills for a lengthy session aimed at showing Bates’ speed and agility. That was where Bates shined.

“I was pleased with how I handled it all mentally. I felt good that my hips were opening well. I was breaking well. I was catching all the balls,” he said.

Bates was disappointed to be clocked in 4.72 in the 40-yard dash, saying he was running in the mid-4.6s in Tampa, but otherwise was happy with his performance.

Maine Coach Joe Harasymiak, who was the defensive coordinator the past two seasons, said he’s been fielding plenty of calls about Bates.

“If he gets into a camp, his character will be very hard for them to cut,” Harasymiak said. “That’s the best I’ve ever seen him look. I always get amazed by, for our level, his size and his quickness, his explosiveness.”

The other Black Bear who may hear his name called in the NFL draft April 28-30 is center Bruce Johnson. He showed up Monday wearing a black sweatshirt with a message he embraced as a three-year starter and winner of the Rimington Award, given to the top center in the Football Championship Subdivision last season.

It read: “0% luck, 100% hustle.”

“It’s what Maine’s all about. Not many guys get lucky out of here. If we get something, that means we earned it,” said Johnson, who returned to his home in Rochester, New York, after the season and spent the past 14 weeks working out with former Ravens offensive tackle Adam Terry.

Johnson returned to Orono at 6-3, 302 pounds, and showing enough quickness and versatility to play guard or center. The Raiders’ scout spent a great deal of time with him working at both positions, and even had Johnson blocking former teammate and defensive end Mike Kozlakowski.

“He tried to give me a little speed, so I had to go out there and try to shut him down a little bit,” Johnson joked. “I felt a little bad for him, tiring out his legs. But I told him I owe him lunch.”

The other player who stood out Monday was a bit of a surprise. Cornerback Axel Ofori Jr., who graduated last year, returned for a second pro day because he was hampered by leg injuries last spring. Ofori had the top vertical jump of 37 inches and ran a 4.53 40 that was the fastest of the day. The free agent is hopeful that NFL teams will take a second look at him based on that performance, and he, too, was asked to stick around for extra drills.

Bates, Johnson and Ofori now can get back to concentrating on their sport without worrying solely about what the stopwatches and tape measures will show.

“I’m not running 40s anymore. I’m not doing this combine stuff. I’m kind of glad it’s over. Fourteen weeks goes into four hours, so I’m kind of happy to just go back to playing football now,” said Johnson, who ran a 5.2 40 after suffering a slight hamstring injury four weeks ago.

“We all were very nervous, not much sleep, so to have it be over is like a big weight off my shoulders. Now I’ve got another one on my shoulders, and that’s the NFL draft.”


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