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John DeShazier: Ohio State pro day features plenty of future NFL players

Coach Sean Payton among those in attendance for Saints

Columbus, Ohio – The forecast for Ohio State isn't quite the same as last year regarding the NFL draft, when the Buckeyes flooded the league with 10 players drafted in the first three rounds, and 12 players selected overall.

But it's not exactly a drought.

Most of the 13 Buckeyes who participated in Pro Day at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on Thursday are projected to be drafted, which explained the presence of many NFL coaches and personnel men, including Saints Coach Sean Payton, defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, secondary coach Aaron Glenn and receivers coach Curtis Johnson.

Hooker's downplay notwithstanding, his film said this from last season: A Big Ten-leading seven interceptions, 11 passes defended and 74 tackles, earning him first-team All-American honors.

The Saints admittedly are needy in the secondary, having parted ways this offseason with safety Jairus Byrd, and the upcoming draft is deep at cornerback and safety. But with the 11th and 32nd picks of the first round, they may not be able to select Ohio State safety Malik Hooker, who is projected to be selected in the top five.

Hooker, who is recovering from two surgeries (torn labrum and hernia), did not participate in Pro Day.

"I feel like you've got to take it step by step," he said. "You go through a lot of stuff throughout this process, it can be overwhelming to some people. But I feel like it's all fun – doing something you love to do all the time, being around football and talking about football constantly. It's a blessing to be in this predicament.

"Get healthy – that's my main, No. 1 priority, because if I'm not healthy what does it matter what film says?"

Buckeyes hybrid Curtis Samuel – 97 carries for 771 yards and eight touchdowns, 74 catches for 865 yards and seven scores – didn't need Pro Day in order to impress, either. He blistered a 4.31-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in February.

But Samuel worked as a running back and receiver Thursday for evaluators, and said he believes he continued to impress.

"I went out there and did what I had to do," Samuel said. "I wanted to show that I could run great routes, inside or outside. I didn't run the 40 today. There was no need, after I put up that good time. I didn't expect that, my time training wasn't 4.31 or 4.3s at all. But I knew once I gave my body the proper time to rest and heal, that I could pull off something like that."

The program that saw 12 players drafted last year, and expects to have several more this year.

Samuel said it was important to display his versatility.

"I did inside receiver, I ran some routes out of the backfield, I did outside, I did some running back drills, caught some punts," he said. "I'm just trying to expand my role, wherever teams want me.

"I'm getting some good feedback, but I'm not really worried about that. I'm just worried about being the best I can be and becoming the best player.

"I really wanted to show that I'm capable of doing both."

All of the Buckeyes on Thursday believe they're capable of doing what it takes to play in the NFL, in large part because of the coaching they received at Ohio State.

"Coach (Urban) Meyer and the coaching staff do a great job developing players a lot faster than what players want," Hooker said. "You come in as a freshman and they develop you from when you first walk in the door, how you're going to represent the program and the culture of the program."

New Orleans head coach Sean Payton as well as Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas visited the Ohio State campus for Pro Day on Thursday.

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