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Notre Dame Football: James Onwualu’s 2017 Pro Day Results and Linebacker Class Comparisons

NCAA Football: Nevada at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Here are the complete results for all 12 former Notre Dame Fighting Irish players that participated in the university’s Pro Day Thursday.

The event was attended by 54 representatives of 27 NFL teams. Skip below the graphic for some comparisons for James Onwualu, his fellow linebacker class and the former Irish linebackers who participated in NFL Combines of years past.

Notre Dame Pro Day 2017 results



  • At 228 pounds, Onwualu would have been the fourth lightest linebacker at the NFL Combine. The Washington Huskies’ JoJo Mathis was the heaviest at 266 pounds, while the Michigan WolverinesJabrill Peppers was 213 pounds.
  • Onwualu is five pounds heavier than Jaylon Smith weighed in during the the 2016 NFL Combine. He is lighter than the other nine Irish linebackers who were invited to the Combine: Bobbie Howard (232 - undrafted free agent); Courtney Watson (238 - 2nd round); Tyreo Harrison (238 - 6th round); Manti Te’o (241 - 2nd round); Rocky Boiman (242 - 4th round); Kory Minor (244 - 7th round); Darius Fleming (245 - 5th round); Mike Goolsby (249 - UDFA) and Prince Shembo (254 - 4th round).


  • At just over 6 feet, Onwualu is the middle of the pack as far as this year’s linebacker crop. The Wisconsin BadgersT.J. Watt is the tallest, at 6-foot-4 and change, while Peppers is the shortest -- just shy of 5-foot-11.
  • Onwualu is shorter than all of those Irish linebackers except Howard, who was 5-foot-10.


  • At 9 1/4 inches, Onwualu’s hands would have been tied for 23rd biggest out of a pool that included him and the 29 NFL Combine participants at linebacker. The Wisconsin Badgers’ T.J. Watt had the largest hands - 11 inches - while Washington Huskies’ JoJo Mathis and the Louisville CardinalsDevonte Fields had the smallest (9 inches).
  • Among Irish alumni at the NFL Combine, Fleming had the smallest hands of the four whose data is available — 9 3/8ths inches. Shembo had the largest hands — 10 12 inches.


  • At 31 14 inches, Onwualu’s arms would have tied him for 23rd best (out of 30) among linebackers if he had participated in the NFL Combine. The Ohio State Buckeyes’ Raekwon McMillian and LSU Tigers’ Kendall Beckwith had the largest arms -- 33 inches. Lindenwood University’s Connor Harris had the shortest arms -- 30 1/8ths inches.


  • Onwualu’s 24 reps on the 225-pound bench press would have tied him for third best had it come at the NFL Combine. The Michigan Wolverines’ Ben Gedeon put up 27, while the Wake Forest Demon DeaconsMarquel Lee put up 25. The Boston College EaglesMatt Milano and the Huskies’ Mathis equaled Onwualu’s performance.
  • Fleming put up 27 reps at the bench press during the 2012 NFL Combine. Shembo had 26 at the 2014 edition and Watson, Boiman and Howard all had less than Onwualu at their respective combines.


  • Onwualu’s best time was his second attempt, when he covered 40 yards in 4.73 seconds. Had that come at the NFL Combine, it would have ranked as 15th best out of 23 participants. Peppers ran the fastest 40 among linebackers at 4.47 seconds. Louisville’s Keith Kelsey ran the slowest — 4.92 seconds.
  • Among Irish alumni that participated at the NFL Combine, Onwualu is a middle-of-pack performance. It was slower than Watson (4.56 seconds), Boiman (4.6), Shembo (4.71), Fleming (4.71) and Minor (4.72). But it would have been faster than Howard (4.74), Te’o (4.82), Harrison (4.87) and Goolsby (4.93).


  • Onwualu’s 36 inch vertical jump would have been fourth best among the linebacker class at the NFL Combine. The Houston CougarsTyus Bowser had the best ups — 37 12 inches. The Clemson TigersBen Boulware was tied for the worst with a 29.5 inch vertical.
  • Among Irish alumni, Onwualu’s leap would have been fourth best among NFL Combine participants. Harrison jumped 40 inches during the 2002 edition, while Shembo made it to 38.5 inches. Watson got to 36.5 inches.


  • Onwualu’s second attempt at the broad jump spanned 119 inches. That would have put him tied for 12th with Gedeon out of 24 participants, had he been at the Combine. Watt and Peppers had the longest jumps — 128 inches -- while the Colorado State RamsKevin Davis only managed to leap 110 inches from the starting line.
  • Historically, 119 inches is pretty good for a Notre Dame linebacker alumnus. Shembo and Boiman both jumped 122 inches, while Harrison fell 1 inch shy of Onwualu’s mark.


  • Onwualu’s 4.28 time in the short shuttle would have been seventh best among linebackers had it come during the Combine. Watt and Gedeon had the fastest time in this agility drill — 4.13 seconds. Kesley was 18th best (19th including Onwualu) — or slowest — with a time of 4.56 seconds.
  • This was one of Te’o’s better drills. He was tied for second among Notre Dame linebacker alumni at the Combine with 4.27 seconds. Boiman was shockingly fast — 4.05 seconds. Howard was the slowpoke at 4.48 seconds.


  • There were eight linebackers who participated in the 60-yard shuttle at the NFL Combine. If Onwualu had been there, his 11.54 second effort would have been third best. Watt was the fastest to finish the drill at 11.2 seconds, while Boulware was the slowest at 12.13 seconds.
  • The Irish have never had a linebacker try the 60-yard shuttle at the NFL Combine.


  • Onwualu strugged in the three-cone drill. His 7.25 second performance would have been third worst out of 17 participants had it come at the Combine. Bowser was the fastest at 6.75 seconds; Fields was the slowest at 7.40 seconds.
  • From a historical perspective, Onwualu’s effort was middle of the pack among Irish alumni who went to the NFL Combine. Boiman finished the drill at 6.86 seconds, while Howard did it the slowest — 7.52 seconds.


Most draft analysts who have mocked out a full seven rounds consider Onwualu to be passed over during the NFL Draft, which will be held April 27-29 in Philadelphia. However, the writers at DraftTek believe Onwualu will be selected in the seventh round by the New York Jets (#224 overall).

Onwualu’s best bet is to go undrafted and sign with the team that needs a special teams contributor/reserve linebacker the most.