NORMAN — An electricity rose when Joe Mixon stepped to the starting line.
A total of 56 NFL personnel, representing all 32 teams, had been through this drill many times before.
The 40-yard dash is a staple of pre-draft workouts, and the crew assembled inside the Everest Training Center had witnessed a lot of 40s in their careers.
Still, when Mixon crouched, the anticipation was palpable. It almost crackled.
At 6-foot and ¾ inches, Mixon came to Oklahoma’s annual Pro Day on Wednesday boldly carrying a muscled-up 228 pounds. Too heavy, and Mixon’s 40 time might be slowed. He came to OU weighing 211 pounds. As a redshirt freshman, he played at 217. Last season, as he rushed for 1,274 yards and averaged 6.8 yards per carry, Mixon was 226.
It seemed natural, smart, that once the 2016 season ended, Mixon would shed some pounds to pick up some tenths.
But when Mixon finished Wednesday’s sprint, the assemblage held his time literally in their hands, on their stopwatches, and the final results ranged from 4.41 to 4.47 seconds. The official time OU logged was 4.43.
That’s fast. For 228 pounds, that’s scary fast.
Fast enough that Mixon decided to break tradition and not run a second 40. Once was good enough. Four-point-four-three would suffice.
Afterward, Mixon said, “I just felt like I shouldn’t have run another one.”
There didn’t seem to be anything wrong. Mixon followed up his 40 with two shuttle drills and the bench press, then did all the position work.
Did Mixon simply achieve the time he sought on his first run?
“I feel like I did,” he said.
And thus began Joe Mixon’s first real steps into the National Football League. At 228 pounds, he ran a time that was faster than all but three of the running backs who worked out at the NFL scouting combine last week in Indianapolis (T.J. Logan, Joe Williams and Tarik Cohen).
LSU’s Leonard Fournette impressively ran 4.51 at 240 pounds. Florida State’s Dalvin Cook ran 4.49 at 210 pounds. Texas’ D’Onta Foreman ran 4.58 at 233 pounds. Even speedy Christian McCaffrey ran 4.48 at 202 pounds.
Simply put, Mixon’s workout blew away most of those in attendance.
“The kid’s special. There’s a reason OU let him stay here.”
— One NFL scout on Joe Mixon
Oh, Mixon will still get plenty of questions from NFL scouts, general managers, coaches and maybe even owners about the day he punched Amelia Molitor and shattered her face. He’ll also get questions about the day he tore up a parking ticket and berated an OU parking attendant.
In fact, it’s a good bet he already has. He met with four NFL teams on Tuesday night, and he’s meeting with any other clubs who are interested in his services Wednesday and in the coming days.
But don’t think for a minute that any of that will scare away teams that say they’re concerned about violence against women or their image or the NFL’s ongoing public relations quagmire.
Mixon’s prodigious athletic talent was on full display Wednesday, and come April, it will get him drafted — and high, probably in the second round.
And it wasn’t just Mixon’s 40 time that impressed the scouts. All the running and jumping and lifting placed him among the top five at his position of prospects who participated at the combine. Mixon’s broad jump didn’t pop (he scratched three times before registering 9-foot-10), but his vertical (35 inches), bench press (21 reps of the 225-pound standard) and shuttle drill times (4.25 seconds in the short shuttle, 7.00 in the 3-cone) were outstanding.
“The kid’s special,” one NFL scout told The Franchise afterward. “There’s a reason OU let him stay here.”
The very same reason Mixon has, apparently, reappeared on some NFL draft boards.
“At first, I was off a lot of teams’ boards,” Mixon said. “Now, you know, a lot are interested now. I can only hope, wish and pray for the best outcome of this situation, and that’s to be drafted.”
Have any teams given Mixon or his agent a reason why some have supposedly had second thoughts about having second thoughts?
“I don’t know. I wish I did know,” he said. “I’m not sure.”
Here’s the reason: Mixon’s pro day results just confirmed what a lot of people saw during the 2016 and 2015 college football seasons. He is, as the scout said, “special.”
Samaje Perine is Oklahoma’s all-time leading rusher and had great workouts both at the combine and at pro day. Dominique Whaley, the erstwhile sandwich artist who led the Sooners in rushing in 2011, last played at OU in 2012 and, after bouncing around in the NFL, was back the Everest on Wednesday, probably given one last shot at glory because of his amazing athletic ability.
But, when showcased in individual running back drills led by pro scouts, even those two paled in a side-by-side contrast with Mixon. Out of a stance and to the football, in and out of cuts, accelerating, juking running routes and catching passes — Mixon made them look almost slow by comparison.
“What I did on film, football, you know, it really don’t lie,” Mixon said. “There’s a lot of great running backs in this class, but at the end of the day, I feel like I’m the best one.”
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard every weekday on The Franchise in Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. with co-host Lauren Rew. In Oklahoma City, catch him Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings at 10:25 and every Friday afternoon at 4:05. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page.