As the Virginia football program transitions into the Bronco Mendenhall era, two notable players from the previous regime are making the next step in their careers.
At 4 p.m., Saturday, David Dean will participate in the East-West Shrine Game in Tampa, Florida. The NLPA Collegiate Bowl, involving Canaan Severin, kicks off two hours later in Carson, California.
That’s half of UVa’s 2015 captains officially entering the NFL Draft spotlight.
“It’s like a regular job interview,” Dean said Tuesday. “You’re just trying to sell yourself and tell them who you are, your background, and where you come from.”
Dean, a 6-foot-1, 290-pound tackle, was the heart of Virginia’s defensive line the last two seasons, making 17 stops for loss, including 5.5 sacks.
“I tell them I’m a very aggressive D-tackle,” he said of his pitch this week to NFL scouts. “I love to play fast; I love to dominate at the point of attack. I buy into the system. Whatever you ask out of me, I’ll do.”
When reached Tuesday, Severin wasn’t far removed from his sit-down with various NFL teams. The 6-2, 205-pound receiver didn’t have to tell them much they weren’t already aware of.
“They know the on-field stuff, the off-the-field stuff,” Severin said. “They know if you’ve ever been in trouble at school, with the law. They know whether or not you’ve been hurt or not, stuff like that. They know if you were on academic suspension.
“But the thing is, they know the answer. It’s like a motherly interview. They know the answer, but want to see if they can catch you in a lie. You just got to tell the truth.”
Severin, who needed just three and a half years to graduate from UVa with a sociology degree, comes with little baggage.
The reigning All-ACC performer was a walking highlight reel at times during his final two years with the Wahoos.
After a combined six catches as a freshman and sophomore, Severin totaled 96 receptions for 1,337 yards and 13 touchdowns during his junior and senior seasons.
His famous one-handed scoring grab against Miami in November 2014 might have first put him on the national radar, but it was a consistent 2015 (54 catches, 759 yards, eight TDs) that Severin is pushing as his top accomplishment.
“For the most part, it was game-in, game-out,” Severin said. “Whether we were facing Notre Dame or Louisville or Virginia Tech, I feel like I just came out and competed. I really do take pride in that.
“The other thing that I think helped raise my stock is the way I prepared this past year. I wanted to be prepared to face the top guys in the country, whether it was Notre Dame or UNC or Louisville or UCLA. Whoever it was, I just wanted to be prepared.”
Severin made a career-high 11 catches for 153 yards against Notre Dame. Two months later, he went for eight grabs, 116 yards and three scores at Louisville.
“Every Monday we would do an hour and a half boxing circuit,” Severin said. “Win, lose or draw, it didn’t matter, we were going to be in there, we were going to make sure we had our wind so we could play all four quarters.
“That win against Syracuse (44-38 in three overtimes), it went down to the wire. That week, we did the boxing circuit. And we were in there again the following Monday. It was just something we did to prepare ourselves. We enjoyed that process.
“A lot of people don’t want to buy into it, but I feel it’s a reason why it separated me and why I’m here in California in this game. It’s the reason I was an All-ACC receiver.”
Both Severin and Dean stayed in Charlottesville to train following the season. Dean, as he goes for his master’s degree in higher education, will come back to town after Saturday’s game. Severin will soon go to Florida to train with noted speed specialist Tom Shaw. (Former UVa defensive end Eli Harold, a third round pick of the San Francisco 49ers, worked with Shaw last year.)
The duo is still seeking an invite to next month’s NFL Scouting Combine.
“If I don’t,” Dean said, “I’ll be training for [Virginia’s] Pro Day in March.”
Dean is getting help from Ryan Tedford, the strength and conditioning coach during the end of Mike London’s tenure with the Cavaliers. Severin is benefitting directly from former UVa offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild this very week.
“Mike Martz is my coach out here,” Severin said of the orchestrator of the “Greatest Show on Turf” St. Louis Rams offenses of the late 1990s, early 2000s. “You can kind of see the kind of IQ that he has. I also feel very fortunate and lucky that I’m very caught up to speed with the information, the plays, stuff like that, with the verbiage because of Coach Fairchild.
“Coach Martz, he hired Coach Fairchild [in St. Louis]. We’ve been talking about Coach Fairchild. Coach Fairchild and Coach [Marques] Hagans were a big part of my growth at the University of Virginia. It’s been good.”
Hagans is part of Mendenhall’s new Virginia staff, which Dean recently met and came away with a satisfying first impression.
“They seem like great guys,” Dean said. “They have a plan and it seems like a plan that’s going to be successful. Coach Mendenhall’s had success in the past so I know they have a bright future.
“I expect big things from them and I know they’ll take care of business.”