Entering the 2016 season, Will Likely was assuredly Maryland’s top prospect for the upcoming draft class. In fact, Likely could have left Maryland after his junior year, and it was a big win for then-first-year head coach DJ Durkin when Likely decided to return.
When Likely went down in the sixth game of the year, he lost his shot at adding game film to his résumé, which is the best way to improve one’s draft stock. CBS Sports currently projects Likely to go undrafted.
Likely’s best remaining chance to raise his stock was at Maryland’s pro day on Wednesday, and he made the most of it. Just over five months after his tearing his ACL on Oct. 15 against Minnesota, Likely stepped onto Capital One Field one more time, this time with a bulky brace over his right knee.
The other 16 participants had already lifted, run their 40-yard dashes and done their timed agility drills. The action stopped as everyone’s focus turned to Likely.
It's the Will Likely show now. Everybody has stopped their drills as Likely runs through a (seemingly scripted) set of drills pic.twitter.com/Nsy0vJfWVp— Jared Goldstein (@_jgoldy17) March 29, 2017
The 5’7 spark plug walked out to the 10-yard line near the east end zone and stood alone, facing 27 scouts, dozens of teammates and a handful of cameras. One coach in a baseball hat stepped forward, football in hand. The two huddled for a second and went back to their positions.
For the next 20 minutes, Likely backpedaled, changed direction smoothly and caught all but one ball thrown his way.
“It felt good,” Likely said with a smile. “It felt good to be back in Maryland just to show what I’ve got for pro day.”
Likely said he has been training in Arizona with Brett Fischer, the Arizona Cardinals’ physical therapist. Though he didn’t want to set a specific date, he insisted he’d “definitely be 100 percent” for NFL camp season in the summer.
“My trainer, he was impressed with the way I was moving,” Likely said. “We still do not want to rush things — keep it slow and steady — then keep it going when the time is right.”
Likely’s trainer wasn’t the only one impressed with his ability to perform at such a high level so soon after his injury.
“What is he, four months, five months out and he was already doing DB drills?” senior running back Trey Edmunds said. “That says everything you have to say about that kind of guy.”
Edmunds fractured a bone in his foot leading up to the Minnesota game and was out for the rest of the season. Naturally, the two of them spent a lot of time together while the rest of the team partook in football activities.
“I’ve gotten to know him really well,” Edmunds said. “One thing I can say about him is that he has a lot of heart. He’s the type of guy that telling him no or telling him that he can’t do it is only gonna add fuel to his fire, and we’ve all seen it.”
Likely is ahead of schedule with his rehab, but there’s no reason to hurry back before he’s completely ready. It’s still early in the spring, and NFL camps don’t start for months. He’s already performing up to his own lofty standards.
“I think I did pretty well [today],” Likely said. “I think I did pretty well, especially coming off five months. I’d give myself an A.”
While Likely did move well and catch nearly everything thrown his way, he — and the rest of the world — will have to wait and see how all 32 NFL teams graded him.
Likely said he has about five visits set up with pro teams at the moment, but would let the process play out and see how it goes. He hasn’t decided if he’ll expand his workload during those meetings, but he’s got his elevator pitch down pat.
“If you’re looking for a playmaker, looking for a person that’s going to compete every single play and just give it all they’ve got, every time they step on the field,” Likely said, “then you’re looking at the right person.”