Tennessee fans couldn’t help but scratch their heads when wide receiver Marquez North decided to forgo his final season and enter the NFL draft despite spending most of the 2015 season on the sideline. Turns out, North was doing a lot of thinking as well.
“I’m a pretty good thinker,” North said after Tennessee’s pro day on Wednesday. “I don’t say a lot. I just think a lot.”
Lately, North has also run a lot. After posting an impressive 4.48-second time in the 40-yard dash during the NFL combine in February, the former Vol decided to sprint again back at home in Charlotte, N.C. It was a decision any agent would have disagreed with. Some at Tennessee even told him there was no need. North did so anyway. It worked.
The former four-star standout from Mallard Creek High School in Charlotte posted a 4.42 time in the 40-yard dash, further proving he has the speed to play in the NFL despite just 74 catches for 874 yards at Tennessee.
“I always want to do it again,” the 6-foot-4, 224-pounder said of running the 40. “I feel like I could improve just a little bit. I wanted to show people I could too.”
“I’m pretty happy with that,” North said of his time.
He should be. North has proven he still can run despite back and shoulder injuries that hampered him throughout his career as a Vol.
“That was real big,” North said of bettering his time. “That’s why I wanted to do a couple of things twice, to show I was healthy, moving well and no injuries at all.”
Still, North’s declaration to exit Tennessee early and enter the draft was a curious one. He offered little insight to his decision on Wednesday.
“I just felt like it was the right decision for me,” North said. “There wasn’t any specifics, but that’s just how I felt about myself.”
Questions still surround North. His health and dedication top the list, and he faced those questions at the combine. However, despite the concerns, he said he’s also heard positive news about what he could bring to an NFL team.
“I’m hearing some good things, some intangibles,” North said. “I was hurt (at Tennessee), so that’s going to be a factor. Just at the combine, you have to go to all the meeting rooms and they’re all pulling at you. There were a lot of questions asked.”
Strangely enough, North said his one workout with an NFL team came with the Dallas Cowboys. The team should know him well, as he was recruited by former Tennessee coach Derek Dooley, who is now a receivers coach with the Cowboys.
“It was like right at home,” North said of working once again with Dooley.
That was surely brief solace after a season of high expectations, in which North was continually contemplating his future.
“I would say last year was mentally draining for me and frustrating, just because I’m not into social media, but you still see a lot of things,” he said. “There were a lot of high expectations for me coming into the year. I got hurt and couldn’t perform so that was draining for me. I always had confidence in myself and anything I do.”
That showed on Wednesday. So much so that North was willing to prove his 40-time wasn’t a fluke.
“People haven’t seen me in a whole year,” he said, “so basically so to see me perform well, that was real big for me.”