Anthony Castonzo attends BC's pro day

Updated: March 23, 2011, 9:12 PM ET
By Mike Reiss | ESPNBoston.com

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- With players from 17 different colleges working out in front of coaches and scouts from 17 NFL teams, Boston College's pro day went off without a hitch on Wednesday.

For some, like BC offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo and BC linebacker Mark Herzlich, it was another step in the process that has included participation in the the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine.

For others, like former Northeastern and UMass offensive lineman Greg Niland of East Bridgewater, Mass., it was the first chance this offseason to showcase his talent to an NFL audience.

[+] EnlargeAnthony Castonzo
Michael Hickey/US PresswireAnthony Castonzo worked out at the NFL combine, and also put his talents on display for scouts Wednesday at Boston College's pro day.

BC had the most players working out (9), while UMass (5), Harvard (5), Holy Cross (4) and Assumption (3) were next in line.

No NFL team had more representation than the New England Patriots, with director of college scouting Jon Robinson, offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia and scout Brian Smith on hand. One highlight for observers was watching the hard-driving Scarnecchia, whose voice boomed throughout BC's indoor practice bubble, drill the offensive linemen in attendance.

"He was coaching us up. It was like a practice," said Castonzo, who measured 6-foot-7 and weighed 313 pounds.

While Castonzo's standing as a first-round draft choice is considered solidified at this point, Herzlich's status seems to be a bit more uncertain. He said he hasn't visited websites or watched TV to find out where analysts think he might get drafted, because it creates added pressure.

Asked what concerns NFL teams have had when speaking with him, Herzlich said, "A lot of it is where I'm at physically compared to my 2008 season and 2010 season."

Herzlich had missed the 2009 season while recovering from Ewing's sarcoma, a form of cancer that attacks the bones.

While Castonzo and Herzlich were headliners at the pro day arranged by BC's Barry Gallup and had their agent, Tom Condon, watching from midfield, the workout was probably more important for unheralded players like Niland.

Having starred at Coyle-Cassidy High School in Taunton, Mass., he earned a scholarship to Northeastern University. But after the 2009 season, the program was cut, putting him in a tough spot.

Would he transfer to finish his football career and keep his NFL dreams alive? Or stay at Northeastern to get his degree?

As it turned out, Niland took advantage of a plan that allowed him to transfer to UMass so he could play the 2010 season, before transferring back to Northeastern so he could finish his business administration degree this spring.

Niland measured 6-foot-4 and weighed 304 pounds at pro day, which is a solid physical makeup for an NFL hopeful on the line. He felt he ran well, and to the casual observer, he looked competitive in drills led by Scarnecchia and Giants offensive line coach Pat Flaherty that tested hip flexibility, hip explosion, change of direction and run- and pass-blocking skills.

"Hopefully maybe today will get the attention of some of the scouts, and they can go back to the filmwork and tape, and maybe I can sneak into the later rounds," said Niland, who plans to attend UMass' pro day on Friday. "That would be the best-case scenario. If not, we'll see what happens with the NFL lockout. One way or another, I just want to make a camp."

A player like Niland, who faces longer odds to be drafted, would be hurt by a lockout because NFL teams won't be allowed to sign undrafted players.

The lockout is also on the mind of Herzlich, who joked that he shouldn't have a problem if his first NFL paycheck is delayed. As a college student, he's used to eating "Ramen noodles and chicken."

On a more serious, lockout-based note, Castonzo might face a tough decision if the NFL invites him to Radio City Music Hall for the first day of the draft, as it does annually for projected top picks. The NFL Players Association, which has decertified, has suggested that prospects should not attend the draft.

"It's going to be a tough decision to make. I obviously don't want to walk into a locker room, the first day, and have everybody part of the players' association and be the one guy who went against them," Castonzo said.

Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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