After three knee surgeries in college and having been told he was medically unable to play at Ohio State, Jamal Dean has only surpassed expectations.
Dean returned to Auburn's campus for the Tigers' Pro Day on Friday after recording a blazing 4.3-second 40-yard dash at last week's NFL Combine.
"When he’s healthy, he’s as good as it gets, I think," said Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn of Dean. "But he’s been resilient, battled through adversity. When you do that it just makes you stronger. He’s got great character, he’s an excellent person. I think his best football is ahead of him."
The 40-yard dash was the Combine's fastest until Ole Miss safety Zedrick Woods beat it with a 4.29.
"Really, (NFL teams) were like, 'Oh, you weren't lying about running low 4.3,'" Dean said. "They were impressed by how I performed in the drills. It was just something surprising to see a guy my size do."
Back on The Plains, no one in the football program was surprised. Receiver Ryan Davis said Friday that Dean ran a 4.35 before the start of the 2018 season — with a brace on his knee.
"It was crazy," Davis said. "You can ask Coach Russell, that’s no lie. They probably have it on video, but Dean ran a 4.35 with a brace on and everybody just left, everybody just walked out after that. That’ll tell you how fast he really is."
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Dean believes "it's a possibility" he's worked his way into the first round come April's draft.
"It was like one of the greatest feelings ever," Dean said. "At one point, I thought I was never going to play football again. Now I'm out here living my dream, and I'm getting closer to the NFL. I just feel like everything is falling into place now."
Dean said NFL teams will open up meetings by asking about his injuries, but the topic of conversation will quickly shift to the former All-SEC cornerbacks' on-field production and impressive showings in other drills.
Besides checking in at 6-foot-1 1/4 and 210 pounds in the morning, Dean's pro day was fairly quiet, save for some drills for NFL scouts and coaches. He doesn't need to show any more.
"... A lot of people said I made a lot of money after running that 40 and just my performance in the Combine in general," Dean said.
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