George Aston vs. the bench press may be highlight of Pitt’s pro day
When 13 former Pitt players work out for NFL coaches and scouts Wednesday on the South Side, one of the more intriguing storylines will involve fullback George Aston and the bench press.
Long considered one of the strongest players on the team, Aston has done 30 bench-press reps of 225 pounds in Pitt’s weight room, only two short of 300-pound offensive lineman Stefano Millin, who did 32 before last season.
Aston could challenge the high mark for running backs at this year’s NFL Combine: 34 by Kansas State’s Alex Barnes. Aston was not invited to the combine.
After practice Tuesday, Pitt guard Rashad Wheeler was asked how many reps he predicts for Aston. He quickly answered, “34.”
Wheeler should know something about Aston’s strength. As a defensive tackle the past three years, Wheeler tried not to get overpowered by Aston, who was the ACC’s fiercest lead blocker and a big reason Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall each rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season.
When coach Pat Narduzzi was asked for his projection, he was even more optimistic about Aston’s strength. He said, “36, he’ll get that easily.”
That would be an impressive number for a 6-foot, 240-pound fullback but far from a combine record. That was set in 1999 by Eastern Kentucky defensive tackle Justin Ernest, 6-3, 284, who performed 51 reps. It didn’t do Ernest much good in the eyes of the NFL, however. He wasn’t drafted and spent only one season with the New Orleans Saints.
The high mark at Penn State’s pro day Tuesday was 25 by offensive lineman Chasz Wright and linebackers Jake Cooper and Koa Farmer. Defensive end Kevin Givens did 32 at the combine this year.
The record low number of reps is one by Mississippi State cornerback Fred Smoot, 5-11, 174. No matter. Smoot was a second-round draft choice of the Washington Redskins in 2001 and played nine seasons in the NFL.
The bench press is just one of eight activities NFL hopefuls will be asked to perform, including vertical jump, broad jump, 40-yard dash, pro shuttle, three-cone drill, 60-yard shuttle and individual position skill work.
Other Pitt players scheduled to work out are wide receiver Rafael Araujo-Lopes, offensive linemen Alex Bookser and Mike Herndon, defensive ends Dewayne Hendrix and James Folston Jr., defensive tackle Shane Roy, Hall, Ollison, linebackers Seun Idowu, Quintin Wirginis and Elijah Zeise and defensive back Colin Jonov.
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .