Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Football: Bryant, Gallagher, Johnson perform at Northwestern Pro Day

Henry Frieman/The Daily Northwestern
Northwestern quarterback Ben Bryant hugs receiver Cam Johnson at Wednesday’s Pro Day. Bryant, Johnson and linebacker Bryce Gallagher were NU’s three Pro Day participants.

Northwestern’s Pro Day reeled in representatives from 29 NFL teams, several dozen professional hopefuls, media fanfare and a pack of Wildcat players and coaches to Ryan Fieldhouse Wednesday morning.

As the midday sun shimmered against the facility’s transparent glass enclosure, illuminating Lake Michigan’s serene scenery, quarterback Ben Bryant trotted toward his two most passionate supporters.

Donning her son’s purple NU jersey, Ben Bryant’s mother, Laura Bryant, stepped down from the bleachers — where she watched his carefully choreographed field session — and brought him in for a hug. Ben Bryant’s father, Sean Bryant, also embraced his son in the moments following his on-field workout.

Ben Bryant embraces his parents after completing his on-field workout Wednesday. (Henry Frieman/The Daily Northwestern)

“They’ve been with me through it all,” Ben Bryant said of his family. “I’m really happy they were able to be here and see me perform one last time. We’ll see where it takes me.”

Years of trials and tribulations brought the sixth-year quarterback to Evanston. A La Grange, Illinois native, who played his high school ball less than an hour away at Lyons Township, Ben Bryant’s single-season stint with the ‘Cats culminated in a 2023 Las Vegas Bowl victory.

He transferred twice and suffered two season-ending injuries during his whirlwind collegiate career that had stops at Cincinnati and Eastern Michigan. Through the tests and challenges he overcame, Ben Bryant said he gained significant confidence. He considers himself as good as any quarterback in the 2024 NFL Draft, he said.

“I had a lot of doubters and people who said I couldn’t do it … but I don’t regret any of the decisions I made,” he said. “I’m so happy I was able to come here to Northwestern and finish my career here.”

Bryant, linebacker Bryce Gallagher and wide receiver Cam Johnson were NU’s three pro prospects. They started their respective workouts with the 40-yard dash, executed shuttle-runs, showcased their verticals and bookended the day with an on-field display.

Coach David Braun said Gallagher, a two-year captain, was the leader he leaned on for stability from the moment he took the interim gig.

“Bryce — that’s someone who is Northwestern through and through and has really shown what sticking to the process … and what development looks like,” Braun said. “At the end of that, there can be an incredible experience — not only with your growth and development as a man but also as a football player.”

Gallagher tallied 316 total tackles during his five-year collegiate career, earning second-team All-Big Ten Honors in 2023 after garnering third-team recognition before. He was the first Wildcat to tally more than 100 tackles in consecutive seasons since Paddy Fisher in 2017 and 2018.

Linebacker Bryce Gallagher executes position drills during Wednesday’s Pro Day. (Henry Frieman/The Daily Northwestern)

He said he’s experienced plenty of ups and downs but learned valuable lessons about perseverance and faith.

“No matter what happens, no matter what you go through, just keep going — don’t let anything bring you down,” Gallagher said. “Don’t let any trials or tribulations hold you down, just put faith in God and trust that he’s got a plan for you.”

Looking to display his athleticism that he said didn’t show up on film, Gallagher went to work at Edge Performance Systems, a Boston-area company that has worked with more than 100 NHL draft picks and former New England Patriots Julian Edelman and Jerod Mayo.

Gallagher said he’s worked out at the group’s facilities since eighth grade. Training with Bailey Tangney and Brian McDonough, Gallagher was the only athlete training his pro day and put forth a potent plan of action.

“I felt (it) was really beneficial for me to really get that one-on-one attention and just have that individualized focus on me each and every day,” Gallagher said. 

In front of teammates he’d played alongside for the better part of five seasons — along with his older brother, Blake Gallagher, and father Michael Gallagher  — Bryce Gallagher leapt to a 33-inch vertical, prompting a purple pandemonium among onlooking supporters. 

While Bryce Gallagher carved out his defensive centerpiece role during a half-decade tenure at NU, Braun said Johnson and Ben Bryant entered the program with measured humility and no complacency last summer.

Johnson said each step of the journey has taught him valuable lessons that make him the player he is today.

“Early on at Vanderbilt, getting to play early and be one of the guys taught me the importance of preparation — the importance of being a professional in the workplace environment,” Johnson said. “Going to Arizona State and not having the year I wanted was really important to learn … nothing’s given to you, and I’m gonna have to work for what I’ve got.”

The Nashville native hauled in 54 catches for 715 yards and six touchdowns in 2023. Johnson saved his best for the season’s end, recording a touchdown reception in each of his last five games.

Wide receiver Cam Johnson leaps to make a catch during Wednesday’s Pro Day. (Henry Frieman/The Daily Northwestern)

Johnson didn’t venture far for his pro day preparation, attending Northbrook, Illinois based TCBOOST Sports Performance, where he honed in on his athleticism and 40-yard dash starts. Working with Founder and Owner Tommy Christian, Johnson even got a few sessions in at the ‘Cats’ facility.

“Throughout the process, it’s been a grind,” Johnson said. “This is definitely a different type of training than you do when you’re working on stuff for the season. I’m definitely happy to get back to regular receiver route running, working on my skills and just having to lift.”

Although Ben Bryant, Bryce Gallagher and Johnson wrote their final chapter at NU Wednesday morning, Braun said the trio encapsulated his program’s values and helped instill a foundation to build upon.

For a coach intent on his team writing its own story on and off the field, Braun said he will gladly sing his pro prospects’ praises whenever he gets the chance.

“It’s an honor and privilege to speak the truth about these guys anytime I get an opportunity to interact with NFL personnel,” Braun said. “The guys here at Northwestern do such an incredible job of giving me so many stories to tell about … their character, their work ethic and the way they’ve developed.”

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Twitter: @jakeepste1n

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