AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Jamel Dean was a spectator while his Auburn teammates ran the 40 at pro day, a luxury he earned with an eye-catching time at the NFL combine.
The cornerback took care of that with a 4.30-second run that marked the second-fastest time at the combine in Indianapolis. It's a number that can only boost his stock as Auburn's highest rated NFL draft prospect despite undergoing three knee surgeries during his playing career.
"It was like one of the greatest feelings ever," Dean said Friday after Auburn's pro day workouts for NFL scouts and other team representatives. "At one point, I thought I was never going to play football again. Now I'm out here living my dream, and I'm getting closer to the NFL. I just feel like everything is falling into place now."
It's a situation that would have seemed improbable before Dean even stepped on Auburn's campus. He originally signed with Ohio State, but was medically disqualified from a knee injury sustained in high school.
Dean transferred to Auburn, redshirted in 2015 and missed the following season with another injury, this time to his left ACL.
He and quarterback Jarrett Stidham both opted to skip their final seasons at Auburn and turn pro. Friday's pro day was just another opportunity for those two and others, including middle linebacker Deshaun Davis and defensive tackle Dontavius Russell, to try to make another impression on NFL teams.
Some mock drafts have Dean as a potential second-round pick while Stidham is widely rated as a mid- to late-rounder.
Dean especially made waves in Indianapolis, enabling him to focus on position drills on campus. Only Mississippi defensive back Zedrick Woods (4.29) ran faster at the combine.
"A lot of people said I made a lot of money after running that 40 and just my performance in the combine in general," he said.
Dean said he felt like "a science experiment" with all the poking and prodding on his surgically repaired knees at the combine.
One benefit of going through those injuries: He feels like his ability to cope with adversity should be a selling point to NFL teams.
"They should know the answer to that one," said Dean, who played in 26 games the past two seasons. "After three knee surgeries? There aren't many dudes who have had three knee surgeries and still continue to play football. That lets you know that I know how to handle adversity."
Stidham has had to do some of that, too, after transferring from Baylor and starting for two seasons. He threw a range of balls to receivers, including ex-Auburn wide receivers Darius Slayton and Ryan Davis.
Stidham only had two incompletions on 50-plus attempts, missing on a 10-yard corner route into the end zone and a seam route downfield.
"It's probably the best one of the (pro day workouts) that I've run," said Jordan Palmer, who is also working with quarterback prospects Drew Lock and Tyree Jackson. "You're talking about Deshaun Watson and Sam Darnold and Josh Allen."
Stidham has faced questions about his footwork and handling of defensive pressure , and didn't help in that regard with two fumbles in an otherwise strong Senior Bowl week.
He finished his Auburn career with his best game in the Music City Bowl against Purdue .
Pro day was another chance to showcase his right arm before NFL representatives of different teams.
"Now it just comes down to private workouts and private meetings," Stidham said. "I've still got to work just as hard as I worked before, if not harder, to really make that last jump."
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