Former Oklahoma cornerback Parnell Motley knew how important the Sooners' Pro Day would be for him after learning back in February he wasn't invited to the 2020 NFL Combine.
Not getting invited after playing the best football of his college career came as a surprise to the senior, who was a leader of an Oklahoma defense that went from the bottom of every team defensive category in the Football Bowl Subdivision to finishing the next season ranked No. 38 in total defense.
"At first I was," Motley said on Wednesday, when asked if he was upset about not getting an invite. "I was disappointed, but God's got a plan for all of us. ... That's why we got days like this, for people like us.
"There was a very big chip on my shoulder."
I was not invited into the NFL combine... crazy— Mot. (@PeeMot11) February 3, 2020
A phone call to his defensive coordinator at H.D. Woodson High School, Wayne Johnson, after Motley didn't see his name on the combine list turned that chip on his shoulder into motivation.
Johnson has coached multiple players who are now in the NFL, one of them being Detroit Lions safety Tavon Wilson, another player who also didn't get an invite to the NFL Combine when he was senior at Illinois in 2011. Because of Illinois' Pro Day, he had to the opportunity to prove himself in front of NFL scouts who didn't even project him to get drafted.
Wilson ended up being the second pick in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, selected by the New England Patriots where he won a Super Bowl. When Johnson got a call from Motley, who had just learned he wasn't combine-bound, he reminded Motley of Wilson's story.
“I said, ‘Tavon didn’t get invited. He had a heck of a career at the University of Illinois. Wasn’t even projected on no draft board and went in the second round,'" Johnson said. "That inspired (Motley) even more. He’s a hard worker, very hard worker. Nobody is going to outwork him. He’s going to play in the NFL for at least 10 to 15 years because that’s how much he wants it — so bad.”
"You’re goddamn right," Johnson recalls Motley's response being. "I’m going to work my tail off."
Over the next month, Motley described his training in Fort Worth as helpful and intense, preparing him for his performance on Wednesday. Motley participated in every event in Pro Day, and notably ran a 4.5 40-yard dash and a 4.47 shuttle time.
Parnell Motley with a 4.50 40-yard dash pic.twitter.com/BEZqBPtk5k— Caleb McCourry (@CalebMac21) March 11, 2020
Motley also said the feedback from scouts has been positive as well, and said he received a text message from scout Tuesday night to relax to "just have fun" at Pro Day.
But Motley saw the day as more than just a place to have fun. It's a tool for improvement and even self-criticism.
"Overall, I get probably about a B. Could've been better," Motley said. "I was a little rusty in some areas and things like that, but I get about a B+ or B ... I always want to be great at everything I do."
For Johnson, he says he already knows what the future holds for Motley, who has only grown in his four years as a corner in the Big 12, a conference known very well for its explosive receiving talent. As his former coach, he's seen what he's willing to do to go to the next level, whether it's with looks from scouts or just hard work.
“I knew he would have an opportunity to broaden his horizon in front of the scouts wherever," Johnson said. "I don’t care if it’s in the backyard, he’s a guy that wants to work hard, and he’s going to work hard and outwork you and perform well. It wasn’t a big deal.
“He’ll play in the NFL for really long, I can tell you that.”