As soon as Nick Anderson's feet planted following his broad jump Thursday at Tulane's Yulman Stadium, there was a cheer and seconds later, Anderson literally bounced away as he dapped up teammates and coaches.
He knew he'd hit a good one.
His best ever, it turns out – 10 feet, 1 inch – and it couldn't have been timelier for the linebacker. The Green Wave hosted their pro day, with nearly every NFL team looking on, as the senior players from Tulane's Cotton Bowl-winning team – including rapid-rising running back Tyjae Spears – attempted to create impactful impressions if they hadn't already done so.
Anderson's numbers on the field for Tulane spoke loudly: 113 tackles, seven for loss, two sacks, four passes defensed, two forced fumbles.
But, too, so did this: Anderson is listed at 5 feet 10. A muscle-packed 230 pounds sewn on, but still, 5-10. But he picked a role model that resonated, and slipped on a Sam Mills Saints jersey after his workout was complete. Mills, a Pro Football Hall of Famer, was listed at 5-9, 225.
"He's one of my heroes, because of the things that he was able to do at his size and playing with the chip on his shoulder that he did, and never doubting himself," said Anderson, who also recorded a personal best in the vertical jump, 36.5 inches. "Played tenaciously. Very physical linebacker, made plays all throughout his career at his size and really put on for the guys that may not have all the measurables, but have got the heart.
"I'm a huge fan of his, just wanted to come out and represent him today because I'm one of those guys that is said to be undersized, but definitely speaks well with my play on the field."
New Orleans Saints coaches attended Tulane Football's Pro Day on Thursday, March 16 at Yulman Stadium ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Spears had questions he wanted to answer, too. Mainly, he wanted to show – at 5-10, 200 – that he possesses the necessary speed to be successful in the NFL.
He clocked 4.47 seconds in the 40.
"A lot of questions were about my 40, whether or not I'm fast," Spears said. "I hope I showed them I'm fast. That's what I wanted to show them, and show them what I've been trying to show them all year – that I can come and compete each and every time my name is called.
"Anything in the 4.4s, I'll be straight with that. I've got a long time to work on my speed."
Spears ran for 1,581 yards and 19 touchdowns on 229 carries, and caught 22 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns last season.
Armed with those numbers, he wowed during the week of practice at the Senior Bowl, the consensus being that if any player had moved his draft needle, it was Spears.
"In life, it's all about being consistent," he said. "That's what I pride myself on, just being consistent. Every time my name gets called, I've got to show up and deliver."
Spears said it was important to deliver Thursday while the pressure was on, and it was important for all of his teammates to take advantage of the opportunity. When he wasn't participating in a drill, he was cheering on teammates who were.
"Those guys were probably dealing with a lot of uncertainty," Spears said. "They were training here and they didn't get all the things that I got, like the Senior Bowl and Combine. I had the same uncertainty going into the Combine, but just being a guy that went through all that and just giving them motivation, I feel like that's very helpful."
Each player said the connections made during the day with interviews were vital. But performance definitely was not to be overlooked.
"I told somebody this morning, you don't need good luck when you're prepared," Anderson said. "We've been preparing since the beginning of January for this day. I'm very happy and very excited with our performance overall today."