Former Ohio State University linebacker Dante Booker wanted to make the most of his opportunity while working out in front of the Cincinnati Bengals coaching staff Monday morning at Paul Brown Stadium.
Limited by injuries during his career with the Buckeyes, but finally coming off a healthy senior season, Booker still feels like he has something to prove to NFL scouts with the draft approaching next week.
The 6-foot-3, 235-pound outside linebacker already missed one big chance to show his abilities in front of coaches like Cincinnati’s Zac Taylor when he was forced to sit out of most drills at Ohio State’s Pro Day last month because of hamstring tightness. On Monday, he got another chance to get in front of Taylor and his staff during the team’s local college workout day.
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“It meant a lot, just to get the opportunity to come out here and do some drills,” Booker said. “That’s all I can ask for. It felt pretty good out there.”
Booker was limited by a shoulder issue in 2017 and a knee injury in 2016 but played in 13 games last fall and finished with 74 career tackles, including 9.0 tackles for loss, over 46 total games. He is projected by DraftScout.com to at best go in the seventh round but remains hopeful he will hear his name called.
The Akron native participated in the Browns’ local college workout on Friday as well and said it was a similar experience. The drills were different, but the format the same: Meetings and a short practice. Every chance to get a workout in and talk to NFL coaches is benefit to fringe players like Booker.
“There’s a little bit of that sense of urgency because of that time restraint but you just take what’s given to you. Do what you can with it. We all did pretty good I think.”
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Booker was one of a handful of Ohio State players in attendance Monday. Kicker Sean Nuernberger and guard Malcolm Pridgeon also practiced, while wide receiver Johnnie Dixon and guard Demetrius Knox attended but did not work out.
Knox, who was born in Springfield but went to high school in Texas, has not been fully cleared yet as he continues to work back from the foot injury that ended his senior year against Michigan in the 2018 regular-season finale. However, the opportunity to meet with Bengals coaches and potentially convince them to give him a shot was something he didn’t take lightly. Most project him to be an undrafted free agent signee.
“It was pretty cool,” Knox said of the chance to meet with the Bengals. “Being born in Springfield, Ohio, just being able to be up here with the Bengals, talk to the coaching staff and all that, it’s a great opportunity. I don’t take it for granted. Growing up the first jersey I ever had was a Chad Johnson jersey, and a lot of people in my family are Bengals fans so it would make them really happy if I had the chance to come here.
“It would be awesome to play here, especially with Billy Price the starting center here. Being able to play next to him again would be amazing. “
The 6-foot-4, 310-pound lineman said he will be 100 percent by training camp. He’s able to run and make cuts and do some drills but isn’t allowed to make contact yet.
That, of course, is the first thing coaches ask him when he meets with them. Knox was able to do a few drills at Pro Day to at least show teams he can move. He also met with the Seahawks as part of a top 30 visit late last week. Each NFL team is allowed 30 private visits with draft prospects.
Knox said talking with Price gave him some assurance he won’t just be overlooked because of his injury. Price tore a pectoral muscle in the Combine last year and still was a first-round draft pick.
“It’s an exciting feeling for sure,” Knox said. “I have faith that I’ll be put in the best situation possible. I’m confident everything will work itself out.”
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Dixon, whose career at OSU almost was derailed by knee injuries, didn’t practice Monday because he had just worked out with the Falcons on Sunday and didn’t want to risk injury going back-to-back days right before the draft. He’s projected at best to go in the fifth or sixth round but DraftScout.com has him as a seventh-round candidate.
The 5-foot-10, 210-pound wide receiver from West Palm Beach, Fla., said he still found it beneficial to meet with the Bengals even though he elected not to work out. He also met with the Browns on Friday and didn’t participate in their local college workout.
Dixon believes he has put enough good work on film between the Combine and Pro Day to earn a shot.
“It’s a long waiting game right now,” Dixon said. “Just hopefully I hear my name called in 10 days or so. It’s not really nerve-wracking for me. I just take it one day at a time. Knowing where I’ve come from and what I’ve been through, I’m not even supposed to be in this position, so I just look at it like another blessing and let the days go. I’m hopeful.”
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