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Mountaineers make their case

BOONE, N.C. – It was a cold Monday afternoon on the campus of Appalachian State University for the school's Pro Day. Heavy fog was in the air followed by steady rain.

For the scouts representing 20 NFL teams, it was just another long day on the long road leading up to draft day.

It had a different meaning for the players running the drills.

"This was the most important day of my life thus far," Mountaineers running back Steven Miller said.

It was a memorable one too, and not just for Miller, who stands at 5-foot-6, 171 pounds.

Prior to Miller's vertical jump, the scouts were aware of what was coming. They removed a ceiling tile in the Mountaineers weightroom and the room went silent in anticipation. 

He jumped 43 inches – his hand reaching through the ceiling (that number would have tied Miller for first place among running backs at the scouting combine).

When he finally came down, there was a smattering of applause from scouts and others in attendance. Some shook their heads in amazement. It was quite simply a wow moment.

I stood next to Panthers digital media executive producer Greg Brannon and senior producer Mike Craft as Miller performed his leap. Both have been attending Pro Days for years, and both said they haven't ever seen a Pro Day jump quite like that.

I certainly hadn't.

"I really wanted a 45," Miller said.

He wasn't kidding, and Monday was strictly business for he and his teammates as they completed their testing.

"I feel like I raised my stock somewhat today," Miller said. "I pray."

Pro Day at Appalachian State is different than Pro Day at a BCS power. The team is certainly successful (three FCS national championships), but they aren't featured on ESPN every week. Their players aren't household names.

That makes a workout in front of 20 NFL scouts so critical for the Mountaineers. And it makes you realize just how elite NFL players are, just how many players are out there chasing this dream in every part of the country, just how hard it is to be drafted.

"This opportunity on March 18," wide receiver Rod Chisholm said, "It's an honor just to be here."

They did their best to make the most of it.

And they take pride in being the next crop of players to leave Appalachian State and vie for a spot on an NFL roster.

Now they just hope somebody is willing to give them a shot.

"Every year I've been here we've had guys go on to the NFL and I just want to keep that tradition going," cornerback Demetrius McCray said. "We have a lot of talent coming out of App State."

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