BYU’s Austin Lee took his future in his own hands, hopes it pays off in the NFL Draft

While COVID-19 has put a stop to a lot of events and occasions around the world, it hasn't stopped the NFL from hosting the 2020 Draft, which is set to start Thursday.

BYU has eight former players trying to break into the professional ranks, but they’ve had to adjust to the constant changes the coronavirus has caused. In mid-March, BYU canceled the remainder of athletic events, including football’s spring practices. That also included Pro Day, which was scheduled at the end of March.

Without the chance to show their chops in Provo, some players took it upon themselves to make themselves known to scouts. One of those was defensive back Austin Lee.

When everything got canceled, Lee took it upon himself to give himself the best chance possible at a professional future. That included getting in a car with former BYU linebacker Jordan Pendleton and a couple of Utah players and driving to Las Vegas to make their own pro day.

Lee was grateful for the impromptu scouting opportunity, partially set up by Pendleton, who owns Pendleton Performance – a physical fitness and training facility in Lehi.

The group wanted to get their numbers as verified as possible and actually were able to get the person who runs the laser and is in charge of the combine.

“It was good to go down there and get things verified,” Lee said. “I was really well pleased with what I was able to put up, in terms of my numbers and my times, everything being lasered and everything being verified as possible. I was very happy with what I was able to do.”

But as far as where Lee believes he’ll land in the draft — or get picked up as a free agent — he’s just going to roll with the punches.

The former Cougar is confident he'll get his shot, but just doesn't know where or when that will happen.

“But I know I'm going to get my chance,” Lee said. “You just never know what's going to happen. Guys get drafted all the time not having talked to teams and guys fall off the charts. There's just so many unexpected variables and I have no idea what's going to happen, but I'm excited.”

And at least Lee hasn't been alone through this experience.

While Lee said the cancellations due to the coronavirus haven't added much more stress or anxiety, he's one of thousands former college athletes going through the same situation right now, including some of his former teammates.

Lee feels confident his BYU teammates have also done their best to promote themselves and hopes they are able to continue their playing careers as well.

“I think, not only are they excellent athletes that have put up really good numbers on their individual pro days, which wasn't a shock for me because I know what they could do, but they're really good leaders at the BYU program,” Lee said. “They came from a very big leadership group and I'm really proud with what they've been able to accomplish as well, but they have so many other elements in their game that they offer, as far as leadership and hard work.”

A look at the most recent BYU Cougars to enter the NFL Draft:

Austin Lee, DB

Lee played his freshman season at Utah before transferring to BYU. In his three seasons as a Cougar, Lee recorded a total of 111 tackles and three interceptions — his last one came against Idaho State, which he returned 26 yards to the end zone.

Verified workout numbers submitted to the NFL:

• Bench press, 18 reps

• 40-yard dash, 4.59 sec.

• Shuttle run, 4.18 sec.

• Vertical jump, 40”

• Broad jump, 126”

• 3 cone drill, 6.87 sec.

Aleva Hifo, WR

Hifo served as a wide receiver and returner for the Cougars. Over his four seasons, Hifo totaled 1,336 receiving yards, but last season he moved from kick returner to punt returner, where he averaged 15.86 yards per punt return.

Verified workout numbers submitted to the NFL:

• 40-yard dash, 4.41 sec.

• Shuttle run, 4.14 sec.

• Vertical jump, 37.5”

• Broad jump, 130”

• 3 cone drill, 7.09 sec.

Dayan Ghanwoloku, DB

Ghanwoloku, a native of Liberia, Africa, was a consistent part of the Cougars' defense over his four years in Provo. Ghanwoloku recorded a total of 207 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss for 33 yards, two sacks and 7 interceptions returned for 226 yards.

Verified workout numbers submitted to the NFL:

• Bench press, 16 reps

• 40-yard dash, 4.41 sec.

• Shuttle run, 4.25 sec.

• 3 cone drill, 6.85 sec.

• Vertical jump, 35”

• Broad jump, 125”

JJ Nwigwe, DL

Nwigwe returned to action last season after redshirting in 2018. The north Texas native had his best season yet in 2019, recording 21 tackles, two sacks and one interception as a senior. Nwigwe has recently been working out to get in even better shape for the chance to keep playing football.

Verified workout numbers submitted to the NFL:

• Bench press, 32 reps

• 40-yard dash, 4.78 sec.

• Shuttle run, 4.47 sec.

• Vertical run, 33.5”

• Broad jump, 113”

• 3 cone drill, 6.85 sec.

Micah Simon, WR

Simon joined the Cougars in 2015, but didn't become a crucial piece of BYU's roster until he came back from redshirting the 2016 season. In his last three seasons, Simon caught 1,109 yards for five touchdowns. His longest reception came at Tennessee for 64 yards.

Verified workout numbers submitted to the NFL:

• Bench press, 11 reps

• 40-yard dash, 4.35 sec.

• Shuttle run, 3.99 sec.

• Vertical jump, 35.5”

• Broad jump, 120.5”

• 3 cone drill, 6.67 sec.

Moroni Laulu-Pututau, TE

Laulu-Pututau saw a dip in receptions last season, but over his four seasons at BYU caught 633 yards on 56 receptions for five touchdowns. Like Nwigwe, the Hyrum native has been working on slimming down since the season ended.

Verified workout numbers submitted to the NFL:

• Bench press, 17 reps

• 40-yard dash, 4.66 sec.

• Shuttle run, 4.35 sec.

• Vertical jump, 35.5”

• 3 cone drill, 6.83 sec

Ty’Son Williams, RB

Williams came to BYU as a graduate transfer from South Carolina, but his time in a Cougar uniform was cut short. Before suffering a torn ACL in the fourth game of the season against Washington, Williams rushed 264 yards and three touchdowns on 49 carries. He also added 47 yards on 7 receptions.

Verified workout numbers submitted to the NFL:

• Bench press, 17 reps

• 40-yard dash, 4.66 sec.

• Shuttle run, 4.35 sec.

• Vertical jump, 35.5”

• 3 cone drill, 6.83 sec.

Beau Tanner, DB

Tanner transferred to BYU from Scottsdale Community College back in 2013, but chose to go on his church mission and didn't officially join the Cougars' roster until 2016. Tanner has his best performance last season when he tallied 16 total tackles and one interception he returned for 73 yards. He also had two pass breakups.

Tanner did a virtual workout, but his stats were unavailable.