MISSOULA — Justin Strong couldn't help but smile after he ran his 40-yard dash at Montana's annual Pro Day.
Strong didn't know then how fast he went, but he knew Monday's performance was something worth grinning about.
"Being able to lace up a pair of cleats, that's the best feeling to me," Strong said. "Just to be able to put on those cleats in front of scouts... One of the last goals I set was to play in the NFL, so that was a good feeling for me."
Strong, who's been training at Exos in Frisco, Texas, officially had a 4.55-second hand-clocked 40-yard dash, but several media members and spectators clocked him within the 4.42-4.45 range.
A 4.42-second 40-yard dash would have been tied for 19th among all participants at this year's NFL Scouting Combine and 12th among the defensive backs.
"I tried to get a 4.3, but it was colder earlier. If it would have been (later), I probably would have got a 4.3," Strong said, laughing.
Even before his speedy show, Strong told 406mtsports.com that he's already heard from multiple NFL teams, including the Dallas Cowboys, who were not present at Monday's Pro Day.
Strong wasn't the only one who had a performance that would have turned heads at the NFL Scouting Combine, had they received invitations.
Early in the day, former Griz cornerback Ryan McKinley jumped 39 1/2 inches for his vertical — a mark that's tied for 13th with all Combine participants. Among defensive backs, he'd be sixth. McKinley's broad jump of 10 feet, 10 inches — or 130 total inches — would have been 10th overall at the Combine and seventh among defensive backs.
McKinley, who's been training in Denver, was hoping for 40 inches on his vertical and 11 feet on his broad jump, but he said both marks were personal bests for him and he's happy with that.
McKinley told 406mtsports.com that he's had several teams reach out to him, including the Arizona Cardinals and the Tennessee Titans, both of which were not present on Monday, to set up workouts.
Eight Grizzlies tested in front of NFL scouts from five teams — the Seattle Seahawks, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the New York Jets, the Detroit Lions and the Cleveland Browns.
Those eight were running back Treshawn Favors, wideout Josh Horner, offensive lineman Robert Luke, offensive tackle David Reese, defensive end/outside linebacker Tucker Schye, wideout Makena Simis, Strong and McKinley.
Luke's 22 reps led the way on the bench, though Schye was just behind with 21 of his own. Schye also had the fastest pro agility time at 4.20 seconds.
"It'd mean the world to me," Schye said if a team gave him a solid look. "More than anything I just wanted to give myself a chance. If it doesn't happen, I'll be all right, but if it does, I'll definitely be very excited."
If anyone knows what it's like to perform at Pro Day and then go on to play in the NFL, that's former Griz safety and current Griz safeties coach Shann Schillinger.
Schillinger, who had a four-year NFL career and was drafted in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons, wasn't invited to the Combine and went through Montana's Pro Day just like last season's crop of seniors looking to extend their careers.
"I remember anxiously waiting for it," Schillinger said of his Pro Day back in 2010. "You put a lot of time in. It was an exciting day, obviously, you put a lot of work into it for a big test and you try to go out and ace it.
"We had a good turn out. We had a good group of kids coming out, which helped. I think we had 16, 17, or 18 teams there which was nice. I remember just having fun. Going out and doing things and testing and just enjoyed it."
Schillinger, who had two of his former defensive backs test — Strong and McKinley — said he wished his guys luck ahead of time and told them he'd be willing to give any advice, even though he'd "been out of it for a while."
Of the whole group, Schillinger said that some of them have a chance to continue their football careers, if only for just a little longer.
"There's a couple guys that have a chance to go and get into some camps, which is cool for the University of Montana to get some representation in camps," Schillinger said. "... It makes you proud of your alma mater."
Two Montana Tech players participated in Montana's Pro Day as well — quarterback Quinn McQueary and running back Nolan Saraceni.
Saraceni stood out with performances comparable to NFL Combine invitees. Saraceni — a 5-foot-9, 199-pound running back — ran the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds, completed the 3-cone drill in 6.87 seconds, had 21 reps on the bench press, as well as a 35-inch vertical and a 121-inch broad jump.
Saraceni's 3-cone drill time would have been third among Combine-invited running backs, his bench press reps would have been eighth, his vertical would have been tied for 10th, his broad jump would have been tied for 11th and his 40-yard dash time would have been tied for 14th.