CLEMSON, S.C. -- Former Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers made his point to NFL teams on Friday: His right knee is fine.
Bowers, the junior lineman who came out early, was considered a top-five NFL draft pick after a year when he led the country with 15½ sacks and won the Nagurski and Ted Hendricks awards. But knee surgery on his meniscus the week after the Tigers' bowl game bred whispers about Bowers' physical condition, something he set out to disprove at Death Valley.
"I think I had a decent day. I think I got the point across I was trying to get across," Bowers said.
2011 NFL Draft
Bowers said he had a 40-yard dash time in the "low 4.8s," which was slower than he had hoped. But he said he was a month behind other draft prospects in preparations because of the injury, which occurred Nov. 6 in Clemson's 14-13 victory over North Carolina State.
"The knee is fine, I'm 100 percent," Bowers said. "I still have a lot of work to do. Still strengthening and getting it back to where it needs to be. But it's not hurting. It's not giving me any problems."
At least 20 NFL teams were on hand to watch the two-hour session at Memorial Stadium. Attending were Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt, Buffalo general manager Buddy Nix and Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff.
The Bills have the third overall pick in the draft; Arizona goes two slots later.
Bowers has a busy month ahead. He said he is visiting Denver, Buffalo and Indianapolis next week, with more NFL clubs scheduled for the following week.
Bowers has yet to decide if he'll attend the NFL draft in New York on April 28, but not because of any pressure from current pro players or the league's labor troubles. Bowers said he'd be proud to walk on stage and talk with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. He might, though, want to share his moment with his family and friends in Bamberg, his hometown about three hours from campus.
"It's been a dream to be able to be drafted," he said.
Bowers was talked about as the potential No. 1 selection soon after Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck decided on another season of college ball.
Bowers' operation -- he did not work out at February's scouting combine as he recovered -- dampened talk of such a high selection, a slide that could cost him millions of dollars.
None of that bothered Bowers, who could do little except rest and rehab per his doctors orders.
"Honestly, I think it frustrated everybody around me except me," he said. "I knew I was healthy and I was waiting for today to exploit my talents."
Bowers looked sharper at his shuttle drills than his sprint. He was put through defensive line drills, knocking aside tackling dummies as the crowd of NFL personnel and Clemson football coaches and ex-teammates watched.
Three other Tigers defensive linemen took part as well -- Miguel Chavis, Jamie Cumbee and Jarvis Jenkins.
But it was Bowers who was the main attraction. The 6-foot-4, 280-pound end was considered the top college prospect in the country when he signed with Clemson in 2008.
Bowers struggled through two seasons to live up to that status, often looking lost and undisciplined. He cited the sudden deaths of his father, Dennis, and his mentor, former Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams, in 2010 as inspiration to fulfill his promise. And Bowers put together an All-American season. Along with the sacks, he had 26 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He acknowledged, though, that his game suffered after the injury against the Wolfpack.
Bowers is steadily building back his stamina and strength and believes whichever team drafts him will see the player who was close to unblockable for most of last season.
"I just want to reassure the teams that I could compete with the guys in the top 10," Bowers said. "That I was ready to play in the NFL with best athletes in the nation and the world."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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