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Missouri football players support former teammates performing at Pro Day

Thursday, March 17, 2011 | 8:11 p.m. CDT; updated 10:38 a.m. CDT, Friday, March 18, 2011

COLUMBIA — T.J. Moe saw the football soar up toward the ceiling of the Devine Practice Facility, spiral down toward the opposite end of the field and land in the arms of a receiver. He heard the gasps of admiration, if not awe, rising from the crowd of onlookers.

He couldn't grasp the collective feeling of seeing something special. For Moe, a Missouri wide receiver, watching this performance by quarterback Blaine Gabbert was like watching replays of the Tigers last season over and over again.

He wasn't there for a new thrill.

"Everybody else is getting wowed by those throws, but I've seen those a hundred times," Moe said. "We're used to seeing it, so we're not marveling at it like everybody is. We're impressed, but it's not like he went off and trained and all of a sudden can make all those throws."

Moe was one of the many Missouri football players present to watch nine former teammates work out at the school's Pro Day. As scouts, agents and media studied the mechanics of Gabbert, the potential No. 1 pick of the 2011 NFL Draft and the health of defensive lineman Aldon Smith, another likely first-round selection, the Devine Pavilion regulars sat together in a corner providing support rather than analysis. 

The familiar faces were comforting to the participants performing in front of a crowd that included 125 NFL officials, about 70 members of the media and about 100 friends and family members. Attendants included NFL dignitaries such as John Elway, Hall of Fame NFL quarterback and the executive vice president of the Denver Broncos and Rex Ryan, head coach of the New York Jets; and Jim Harbaugh, head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

Former Missouri center Tim Barnes said snapping to Gabbert and trying to bolster his own draft status in front of that crowd was nerve-wracking, but talking to some of his past teammates added another element to the day.

"It's nice to see your old teammates here," he said. "I saw a lot of football guys up in the stands and talked to them between drills. They're out here supporting you, and this is really cool getting to see them."

Like Moe, running back De'Vion Moore said seeing Gabbert throw long and accurate was nothing new. But after working out of the spread offense all season and not watching Gabbert practice recently, Moore watched the quarterback's footwork with interest.

"He got under center and went through his drop back, and we were just like, 'Man, that guy has put in a lot of time and a lot of dedication to get this stuff down pat,'" Moore said. "And it's going to pay off for him."

Moe compared the environment to a zoo, and when it was time for Gabbert to throw, staff ushered the current players toward a bleacher in the corner. They had to ask wide receiver Jerrell Jackson, who was snapping photos with a camera he had around his neck, twice.

The players climbed up to the higher rows and stood on them for a better view. Linebacker Will Ebner held out his phone in front of him with two hands, taking pictures or filming his good friend's passes. Because he participated in the workout, defensive back Carl Gettis got to watch from behind the row of scribbling scouts who lined the field.

The whole experience was new for him, too. He looked at his old teammates, some who have their own NFL dreams, and was glad they got a chance to experience it from the sideline.

"It's cool for so many younger guys to come out here and get the exposure to things like this," he said. "It's great for the university."

As Gabbert threw, Moore looked out from his seat on the bleachers and took in the scene. It didn't overwhelm him.

"It's like getting to see a brother have all of his dreams come true," Moore said. "For everybody to come out here and support him — it's more like a family thing."


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