Pro Day: Former Tigers show out for NFL scouts in last workout at Auburn

Auburn hosted its Pro Day on the plains Friday. (AU Athletics)

AUBURN, Ala. – In 2019, Jaylin Simpson, Nehemiah Pritchett and Zion Puckett arrived at Auburn together. Three years later, D.J. James joined them as a transfer from Oregon. On Friday, the defensive back quartet worked out on the Plains for the last time together at Auburn’s Pro Day.

“My last little hoorah with D.J., Mighty and Puck,” Simpson said. “It’s our last time probably doing drills with each other together. It was fun to do that and just continue to show why I feel like I’m one of the best safeties in the draft. And they continue to show why they are one of the best at their position too. It was a good day today. We all did amazing.”

“Pro Day was good,” added Pritchett. “Just coming back here and being in front of the Auburn Family – coaches, players, old teammates – it was just a blessing to be back here.”

The group played a combined 171 games in Auburn’s secondary and amassed a total of 454 tackles, 79 pass deflections and 15 interceptions between them.

Thirty-one of the 32 NFL teams were represented at Auburn’s Pro Day this year along with Jim Nagy, the Executive Director of the Reese’s Senior Bowl and a former NFL scout for nearly two decades.

Simpson, Pritchett and James all played in this year’s Senior Bowl in Mobile.

“They’re all different players skill set-wise, but I love the fact that they embraced the entire process,” Nagy said. “They went from Mobile to the (NFL) Combine to here, and they finished off everything maybe they didn’t do at the combine here today. They finished out well.

“There were a lot of defensive backs coaches here today, which tells you there’s pretty strong interest. For guys that were in Mobile for a week and then at the combine and did all the work there, the fact that DB coaches still felt the need to come back out here and see them again tells you the level of interest.”

Simpson, Pritchett and James didn’t run the 40-yard dash Friday after strong showings at the NFL Combine last month. All three ran 4.45 or faster in Indianapolis with Pritchett clocking the fourth-fastest time among the defensive backs at 4.36. However, Simpson hit 40 inches on his vertical jump, a goal he just missed at the combine.

“I got robbed a little bit,” Simpson. “I got the 40 (inches) at the combine, but I just wanted that 40 on black and white on paper so I had to do it again.”

Puckett went through all the tests and ran the fastest 40-yard dash (4.50) among the Auburn players who participated in the event Friday. Wide receiver Nick Mardner was second-fastest at 4.52 and also jumped nearly 11 feet (10’9″) in the broad jump.

Marcus Harris joined Simpson, Pritchett and James at the Senior Bowl and at the NFL Combine, and while the veteran defensive lineman didn’t do the 40-yard dash or the jumps at Pro Day, he set the day’s highest mark on bench press with 34 reps.

Like James, Harris was a transfer from Kansas who arrived at Auburn in 2021. It was bittersweet working out with his former teammates one last time.

“Finishing with these guys was emotional,” Harris said. “At first, it didn’t hit me because I was trying to focus on the drills. But at the end, seeing those guys leave – my friends leaving to start their new life, new chapter – it’s surreal. It doesn’t feel real.”

In all, 17 players worked out for scouts at the Auburn Pro Day. Some had played their entire careers on the Plains while others transferred in, including a handful of players who came in last year and played their final season at Auburn.

The longest-tenured of the group was offensive lineman Kam Stutts who arrived in 2018. Stutts and fellow Pro Day participant Elijah McAllister were team captains this past year.

“It was good,” Stutts said of Pro Day. “Getting to come out here and compete with my teammates one more time, put on the Auburn logo for the last time, it was good. I got some good work in, got to show the scouts what I’ve been working on.

“This is the last time we’ll wear the logo, but we’ll be representing Auburn for life.”

Next up is the NFL Draft, which will be held April 25-27 in Detroit, Michigan.