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Grand Valley State University's Beacon Since 1963, Allendale, MI
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Johnson and Lelito impress at GV’s pro day

There are 32 professional franchises incorporated under the crest of the National Football League, 23 of which had representatives present at the 2013 Grand Valley State University Pro Timing Day. It will only take one of those teams to make the dreams of recent Laker football alums Tim Lelito and Charles Johnson come true.

Hosted Monday afternoon in the Kelly Family Sports Center, 16 other NCAA Division II prospects also made the trip to Allendale in hopes of enticing the right team to take a chance.

“I don’t care,” said offensive lineman Tim Lelito. “I could be taken in the first round to invite to camp – anything. I really don’t care. I just want a chance.”

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GVL / Robert Mathews Offensive lineman Tim Lelito running drills during the 2013 NFL Pro Day at the Kelly Family Sports Center.
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GVL / Robert Mathews Offensive lineman Tim Lelito running drills during the 2013 NFL Pro Day at the Kelly Family Sports Center.

It hasn’t come easy, but both Lelito and Johnson are well on their way to receiving the one chance all athletes crave.

Lelito, a former GVSU Lineman of the Year and four-year starter as a Laker, has set up shop in Fowlerville, Mich., working with trainers at No Bull Strength and Performance for the past two months, six days a week, to add bulk and directly improve his drill scores (bench, 40-yard dash, L-drill, pro-agility, vertical leap, broad jump, etc.).

Johnson, a two-year starter at GVSU and former GVSU Offensive Skill Position Player of the Year, has put in his work down in Nashville, Tenn. two times a day, six days a week under the watchful eye of University of Southern California trainer Darren Mustin and the Division I Sports Training staff, focusing on his 40-yard dash start with Olympic style track workouts.

“It’s been long, fun and hard,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of training that goes into it and you got to be able to be committed. You can’t stop working. There’s somebody out there trying to work harder than you so I had that in the back of my mind. I have two little girls that I have to provide for, so I’m out here every day just putting in work, trying to get better and make one person to like me.”

All of their efforts culminated Monday when they were afforded the chance to perform center stage. Both Johnson and Lelito took full advantage of the opportunity.

“I thought they both performed very well (pro day),” said head GVSU’s head football coach Matt Mitchell. “They had some very good numbers and I think that in combination with their performance on tape is going to give both guys opportunities.”

So good in fact that had either athlete been one of the 335 invited to NFL combine held in Indianapolis between Feb. 20-26, both would have placed amongst top event performers.

Lelito, who measured in at 6’3” 308 pounds officially, posted 29 reps at 225 lbs. in the bench press, ran a 5.2 40-yard dash, leaped 8 feet 11 inches in the broad jump, a measurement that would have been 14th highest amongst lineman, and jumped 33 inches vertically from a stand, a height nearly unheard of for a man of his size that only two combine lineman could top.

At an official 6’2” 215 lbs., Johnson leaves little to be desired physically and quickly became the talk of the afternoon. Johnson started by quelling all concerns about his top-end speed, turning in blazing times of 4.35 and 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash, delivering two sub 4.4 40-yard dashes, just as he had previously promised. Johnson’s 4.35 would have been fourth best among all receivers – and fifth best overall – only trailing the top time of 4.27 paced by Marquise Goodwin of the University of Texas and the 4.34 second times clocked by Tavon Austin of West Virginia University and Ryan Swope of Texas A&M University.

“On a scale of one to 10, I give myself a nine,” Johnson said. “I mean I wasn’t perfect. Nobody’s perfect, but I think I came out here and impressed a lot of people like I said I would. I think I came out here after all this hard work I’ve been putting in and performed at a high level.”

Johnson’s vertical leap of 39.5 inches would have ranked first amongst receivers and would have tied for tenth overall. Johnson’s broad jump of 11-foot-one would have been good for second amongst fellow receivers and fifth overall.

“It’s good for him,” Mitchell said. “I think it adds to his catches and productivity. I always knew he was going to be in a camp as a free agent. This might have possibly today bumped him into that draft-able range.”

Lelito, who could be limited by height at the next level, has a direct precedent to follow set by current NFL and former GVSU linemen Cam Bradfield and Nick McDonald. Prepared to step in at any interior line position, Lelito’s versatility could be his ticket into the league. A blue-collar demeanor could also factor heavily in Lelito’s favor.

“I’m just nasty,” Lelito said. “I like hurting people. I like going out there and getting after it, and I definitely like a challenge. If someone says, ‘Hey, here’s this All-American defensive lineman’ or something like that, I like to go in there and test myself. Give them a little pancake action. Pour some syrup on them.”

The draft, which will be held April 25-27, is only 41 days away. Whether Leltio and Johnson are selected remains to be seen, but at the very least, it is expected that both Lakers will make NFL camps. If they are, they’ll bring the count of Lakers in the NFL up to six. After short rests to reward their pro day efforts, both players will spend the coming weeks continuing their training and participating in individual team workouts. Both intend to make everyone of those 41 days count.

“I’m not making those decisions, but I’d say based on (pro day) you’re going to see a lot more teams now flying him in for pre-draft visits,” Mitchell said. “It only takes one.”

pbarrows@lanthorn.com



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