MADISON, Wis. (AP) – For as long as he can remember, Chris Borland has endured questions about his height.
Heard them all the way back when he was 3, playing pee-wee soccer. Heard them at Wisconsin playing linebacker. Each time, he proved detractors wrong.
Now it’s time to do it again for the NFL. The decorated Big Ten linebacker joined other Badgers prospects trying to impress scouts Wednesday at the school’s Pro Day.
“I’ve always been short and that’s fine. I’ve found a way to get it done and I don’t worry about it,” Borland said after the workout in front of roughly two dozen scouts. “Five feet-11½ isn’t really a tiny person. It’s a decent size.”
Relatively speaking, for an NFL linebacker, Borland is short. But he sure looks like he’s added some upper-body muscle to a frame that was last listed at 246 pounds in January.
The most common criticism of Borland appears to be his lack of “prototypical” measurements. Unofficially, he ran the 40-yard dash in about 4.7 seconds, an improvement from his NFL combine time last month. Borland thinks measurables may not be as important for a prospect slated to play inside linebacker.
Scouts held stopwatches sat on metal bleachers, each man getting a time on a run. Prospects jumped as high as possible to reach directly above them to touch a series of metal poles to measure vertical leap. Television cameras caught every move from afar.
“Training like a track athlete was something new to me, and I learned a lot of things from that process that I’ll carry over to my NFL career,” Borland said.
His strength lies in position drills. It’s evident on film. Borland is instinctive, and he holds the Big Ten record for career forced fumbles with 15.
Off the field, he’s known for his leadership skills. He’s adapted to different position coaches and a change in scheme from a 4-3 to a 3-4 in Gary Andersen’s first year as head coach last season.
Borland thinks that can only help him at the next level by showing teams he can adjust to complicated NFL schemes.
“It wasn’t actually easy. A lot of different personality types, different schemes, different techniques. Ultimately, I think that will help me,” he said.
What helped Wednesday was being back under the bubble of the McClain Center indoor practice facility. Borland said he wasn’t at his best at the NFL combine in Indianapolis, when he didn’t get much sleep.
At least he got a chance to show what he could do then. The same can’t be said for safety Dezmen Southward, who was hours from taking the field at the combine when he was pulled after initial concerns that he might have a fractured vertebrae.
The diagnosis surprised Southward, who got another opinion and found out that he had no fracture.
“At the end of the day, the light at the end of the tunnel is I don’t have a fractured neck,” he said. “So I’m excited about that and ready to move forward.”
The mix-up at the combine made it even more important for Southward to impress at the pro day. He didn’t waste the opportunity, running an estimated 4.35 seconds in his 40, and measuring a 42-inch vertical – by far the best mark of the day. It drew perhaps the only “ooohs and ahhs” of the afternoon.
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