Football: Northwestern’s four draft prospects shine in NFL Combine performances


John Riker/Daily Senior Staffer

Defensive lineman Adetomiwa Adebawore at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Adebawore hopes to be a first-round pick in April’s NFL Draft, which will be held in his hometown of Kansas City.

John Riker, Daily Senior Staffer

INDIANAPOLIS — Seated at one of three auxiliary podiums away from the cluster of TV cameras, senior defensive lineman Adetomiwa Adebawore gave the media at Wednesday’s NFL Combine press conferences a preview of what was to come in his Thursday workout.

“I think I’m very athletic,” Adebawore said. “I think you guys are going to see that tomorrow.”

The Northwestern standout kept his word with a prolific combine performance, capturing the attention of NFL front offices and fans with a bewildering blend of size and speed. 

Adebawore, who measured in at 6-foot-2 and 282 pounds, shocked scouts and teams on Thursday with a blazing 4.49 40-yard dash, fifth among all defensive linemen. His time was the fastest by a defensive lineman of over 275 pounds since 2003, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Along with a 10-foot-5-inch broad jump and 37.5-inch vertical jump — both also top-three performances since 2003 — Adebawore showcased an explosiveness that could elevate him into a first-round pick. 

The Wildcats lost their final 11 games of the 2022 season, but the combine started the new year on a thrilling note. Along with Adebawore’s fast start, junior cornerback Cameron Mitchell, junior offensive tackle Peter Skoronski and junior running back Evan Hull made the most of their combine invites. If all four are drafted in the NFL Draft in late April, NU will have its first four-player draft class since 1985. 

“That would be really cool,” Skoronski said. “It would have been great to have a few more wins based off all of the draftees, but all of these guys who are here deserve it.”

Since a season-ending 41-3 loss to Illinois on Nov. 26, the four Cats have gone their separate ways in preparing for the draft. Adebawore and Hull boosted their draft stock with notable performances in the Senior Bowl in February, while Skoronski made the decision to forego his senior season in Evanston and declare for the draft. Combine preparation has also spread the four players across the country and to warmer climates. 

While generating buzz in NFL circles, Adebawore’s performances didn’t surprise his teammates. Skoronski said he’s seen Adebawore’s freakish athleticism through frequent competition in drills, while Hull was thrilled that Adebawore flashed his speed on an NFL stage. 

Adebawore gained traction as a potential first-round pick in the fall and registered five sacks and two forced fumbles in his senior season. Since then, he’s made the first round his target through his preparation process. The third-team All-Big Ten selection grew up in Draft host city Kansas City and said he will be in town for his big night, whether in the Draft venue or at home. 

For Skoronski, the combine represented a chance to solidify his standing as a top-10 pick. The Park Ridge product started at left tackle all three seasons with the Cats and had one of the most prolific careers of any NU player, including becoming the Cats’ first unanimous All-American as a junior. Skoronski said he would be willing to move to right tackle or guard if needed, though he acknowledged a potential learning curve for switching positions.

Mitchell and Hull bested Adebawore’s time in the 40-yard dash, but project as middle- or late-round picks. Among the draft’s cornerbacks, Mitchell tied for fifth in the bench press and had the second-best 10-yard split in the 40-yard dash, while Hull, the Cats’ final performer of the week, ranked in the top six of running backs in the vertical and broad jumps.

Indianapolis is a special place for the NU program. As the site of the Big Ten Championship, the Colts’ Lucas Oil Stadium is an annual goal for the Cats. In 2020, NU won the Big Ten West and fought closely against Ohio State before losing 22-10.

Along with the four Cats prospects, Auburn linebacker Eku Leota and Notre Dame safety Brandon Joseph competed on the 2020 NU defense before transferring out and spoke highly of their time with the Cats. Joseph made a one-handed interception in the 2020 Big Ten Championship, the defining highlight of his All-American season.

“The Wildcat program made me exactly who I am,” Joseph said. “Notre Dame was able to finish off everything, but Northwestern — that’s my blood and where I played the majority of my career. I’ll never forget the blessings that I got from it.”

NU will host its Pro Day at Ryan Fieldhouse on March 14, giving their former captains another chance to make an impression on NFL decision-makers. 

In both the combine and throughout the pre-draft process, the Cats said they’ve enjoyed each other’s companionship as they pursue their NFL dreams.

“It’s really cool because we’re all in this process together,” Hull said. “We get to share about how our experiences have been, how training has been. It’s almost like being back in the locker room in a sense.”

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