Darden pro day

North Texas wide receiver Jaelon Darden hauls in a touchdown pass over Charlotte’s Lance McMillan last season at Apogee Stadium. Darden excelled in his pro day on Thursday.

Former North Texas wide receiver Jaelon Darden attracted quite the crowd for his pro day on Thursday.

A total of 29 teams sent 34 scouts to see one of the greatest players in UNT history work out at the Lovelace & McNatt Families Practice Facility. Only three teams weren’t represented, two of them because of last minute logistics issues.

Darden put on quite the show for the teams that were there, running a pair of 40-yard dashes in the 4.47 to 4.48 second range and excelling in other drills.

“I did well,” Darden said. “I came out and was very consistent. I was proud of what I did.”

Jaelon Darden

Jaelon Darden

Darden is aiming to become the first UNT player selected in the NFL draft since Cody Spencer. The UNT Hall of Fame linebacker was picked in the sixth round by the Oakland Raiders in 2004.

Darden was named the Conference USA MVP after catching 19 touchdown passes in just nine games as a senior. He set UNT’s career records for receptions (230), receiving touchdowns (38) and receiving yards (2,782).

Darden emerged as an NFL prospect during his senior year and declared for the NFL draft after the Mean Green’s regular season finale against UTEP. He has been training for his pro day ever since.

That work paid off. Multiple scouts said that Darden bolstered his draft prospects with his performance.

He measured in at 5-foot-7 1/2 and 174 pounds before showing elite quickness and speed.

Darden ran a 4.07 second 20-yard shuttle and a 6.65 three-cone drill.

Darden’s times were impressive when compared to times posted by wide receivers in previous NFL scouting combines. He also posted a 35.6-inch vertical leap and 11 bench reps, a solid total for a smaller slot receiver.

Scouts had Darden run routes and catch passes from current UNT quarterback Austin Aune. He snared passes on short routes and ran deep patterns while showing the pass catching ability that made him the Mean Green’s best offensive weapon last season.

“It was just me being me,” Darden said of his performance. “That is all they wanted to see. I checked every box that I needed to.

“Running well was important. A lot of people probably didn’t think I could run.”

UNT coach Seth Littrell had no doubts that Darden would perform well in front of scouts.

“I’ve never had a player work like Jalen has,” Littrell said Tuesday during a press conference ahead of Darden’s pro day. “At times I’d have to tell him, ‘You got to relax and ease up. I need your legs fresh for this weekend.’”

Darden traces his work ethic to his family. His father died of a heart condition over the summer.

The Houston native plans to watch the draft that is set to begin on April 29 at home with his family.

“I have to celebrate this with my mom and little brother,” Darden said.

Darden’s goal of playing in the NFL seems closer now after his solid pro day.

“It was a good feeling to see this many teams show up,” Darden said. “Coming from where I come from, not too many people have this opportunity. It’s amazing to see 29 teams out here just to see me. It means a lot.”

Performing in front of those teams was an opportunity Darden enjoyed.

“It was a fun day,” Darden said. “It’s a lot of stress off my shoulders. I have been working for this moment since last January. It’s amazing to come out and here and compete in front of all these teams.”

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.

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