Ryan McWethy didn't feel a guy crashing the party last month when he showed up at the McClain Center for the University of Wisconsin football program's Pro Day to perform in front of an assortment of NFL scouts.
That feeling came afterward.
The former UW-Platteville defensive back turned in an impressive performance amid a host of Badgers. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.48 seconds and graded out strong in other areas, leaving him hopeful that he will hear his name called late in the NFL Draft, which starts Thursday, or hear his phone ring with a free-agent offer once the draft is over.
"I feel I did alright," McWethy said following the workout in March. "I know my footwork is a little sluggish. I can work on that. I haven't been taught too much on footwork. I feel I can greatly improve on that."
McWethy earned American Football Coaches Assocation Division III All-American honors -- the first Pioneers player in 16 years to do so -- and was a first-team all-WIAC defensive back. The Oregon, Ill., native led the team last season with 84 tackles and a team-best 52 solo tackles in addition to two interceptions and three pass break-ups.
In 30 career games at Platteville, McWethy recorded 180 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, and five interceptions. He helped the Pioneers post a 15-5 record in his last two seasons, the best record in consecutive seasons since the Pioneers went 8-2 in 1976 and 7-3 in 1977.
"Obviously, I'm not a Badger so I'm not up to their level, but I feel I can compete with them," he said. "I feel I'm right there with everyone. You have to have the confidence that (you're) right there."
His performance on Pro Day suggested as much. His vertical jump was 37½ inches, his broad jump was 10 feet and he did 31 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press, better than any safety who worked out at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis in late February.
But, as it is for most NCAA Division III players with NFL aspirations, it's been hard for McWethy to become noticed.
He left Platteville in December -- still two semesters shy of his degree -- to focus on preparations for the NFL Draft. He has been working with a trainer at NX Level in Waukesha, a sports performance training facility that counts former Badgers J.J. Watt, Joe Thomas, Bradie Ewing and Chris Maragos among its clients.
"It wasn't on my radar at all until my junior year," McWethy said of his NFL chances. "My coaches started asking me for game film. I didn't know what it was for so I asked. They just said 'The NFL' and I'm like 'OK. I never thought it would become a reality."
McWethy talked to scouts from the Baltimore Ravens, the Oakland Raiders, the Tennessee Titans, the Dallas Cowboys and the Minnesota Vikings during his Pro Day workout at UW. He planned to go back to the Milwaukee area to continue workouts in advance of Draft weekend.
"Just stay in shape," he said. "Work on footwork. Keep my stength up and hopefully get some calls and see where it goes from there."