Former Pitt defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman was in Pittsburgh on Wednesday to take part in Pitt’s pro day along with 15 former teammates, and he made the most of the opportunity by putting on a standout performance. That could prove vital in the coming months, as the 2021 NFL combine has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and pro day showings will likely loom large in pre-draft evaluations.
The highlight of the day was Twyman’s 40 bench-press reps of 225 pounds. With that performance, he topped the mark of Pitt great Aaron Donald, who had 35 reps in the 2014 NFL combine. Twyman was also just nine reps shy of the combine record of 49 set by Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea in 2011.
The 40 reps not only topped all other bench-press totals for the day, but they were also the most Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi had seen in his career. Still, it did not surprise him.
"The bench didn't surprise me at all," Narduzzi said. "It comes down to being a football player ... and when Jaylen went through and ran through the defensive drills with [Pitt defensive line coach Charlie] Partridge and Joe Cullen of the [Jacksonville] Jaguars, he looked like that's what he does — like he's a football player."
Twyman, who checked in at 6’1”, 301 pounds, also posted a 32.5-inch vertical, which was an impressive feat of strength, given his weight. And he rounded out the day with an eight-foot, eight-inch broad jump, a 5.40-second 40-yard dash and a 7.98-second three-cone drill.
In addition to turning heads during the day's drills, Twyman discussed his decision to opt out of the 2020 season and noted that he had the full support of his teammates.
“I was just trying to help my mom and my little brother financially,” Twyman explained. “My team showed great gratitude toward me. They felt I wasn’t selfish at all.”
That decision brought the Washington, D.C., native down to Florida for several months, where he prepared for the NFL draft. It also came at a cost, as the sack artist had already earned preseason All-America honors and could have solidified his status as a lock for an early-round draft pick had he chosen to play.
But between his opt-out announcement and Pitt’s pro day, Twyman's draft stock tumbled due to uncertainties about his independent conditioning efforts and the sustainability of his production after one outstanding year. As Twyman sees it, though, 2020 would have seen him take a step forward from 2019.
“I feel like my numbers would have been better than [my numbers in 2019] with the teammates I had around me,” Twyman said. “Sacks would have fallen into my lap. I wouldn’t have had to work as hard as I did in 2019.”
The majority of NFL teams seem to concur with Twyman's assessment, as he noted that he has spoken to representatives from 23 of the league’s 32 franchises. So suggestions that interest in him waned may well have been overblown. And after his show of strength on Wednesday, his stock could be on the rise.