LOS ANGELES -- For Nick Perry, the USC Pro Day on Wednesday wasn’t so much about establishing himself in the eyes of pro scouts. That part was taken care of at the NFL combine last month with a solid performance that earned him a spot as the No. 5 defensive end on ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper’s most recent list of top players at each position.
His marks at the combine were so good that he didn’t even run the 40-yard dash or lift in the bench press at Pro Day. Instead, he focused on taking advantage of the opportunity to showcase his talents in the position drills. The twist to the story is that the position drills he took part in were at linebacker.
There are several NFL teams who run a 3-4 defense and they are now considering Perry as a possible outside linebacker in their system after his impressive showing at the combine. In fact, Kiper’s latest mock draft has Perry being selected in the first round by the Green Bay Packers with the No. 28 pick as a linebacker.
At 6-foot-3, 271 pounds, Perry becomes an attractive pass rush commodity with his combine marks of 4.64 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 38.5-inch vertical leap and a 10-foot, 4 inch broad jump. The on-field production was also there, as Perry led the Pac-12 Conference in 2011 with 9.5 sacks.
For Perry, it doesn’t really matter which position he plays, he just wants an opportunity.
“Whatever it takes to play, I have no preference,” Perry said after the Pro Day workout. “If they want me to be the punter, I’ll be the punter. Whatever happens, I’ll roll with it.
“I think I showed them at the combine that I’m a competitor and today I just wanted to come out and show them that I could play in space. I think I have the speed to play both spots. It would take some specific training for linebacker to work with my hips but I think I could do it. With the right training, I can do anything.”
To continue with his training, Perry will head back to Arizona for more work at Athlete’s Performance Institute between now and the draft. He doesn’t have any private team workouts set, but when those come he will be well prepared thanks to advice from USC defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, a former assistant coach with the New Orleans Saints.
“Coach ‘O’ just told me to give great effort in those workouts,” Perry said. “He told me it’s all about your approach to the game at that level. I’m just going to go in there, work hard and be coachable.”
The USC Pro Day did mark the final on-campus session for Perry of his Trojans career, one that began in 2008 when he came to USC after recording a state-record 36 sacks in his senior season at Detroit King HS. Perry was the rare elite recruit from Michigan to leave the state for college football and -- while he says the experience at USC has been a memorable one -- he is ready for the next step.
“I will truly miss all the things I did here,” Perry said. “I have no regrets about coming out early for the draft but these times at USC will never be forgotten. I’m thankful and blessed for being in the position to take part in this draft process for the NFL, it’s been everything I thought it would be. I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole life.”