Joshua Kelley, Michael Pittman Jr. making waves in Mobile

NFL Draft

Two NFL prospects from Los Angeles are making headway down in Mobile, showcasing skillsets that should prove favorable come the draft.

MOBILE — Joshua Kelley took the long road.

From UC-Davis to UCLA, Kelley has long been the underdog. A transfer followed by walk-on status with the Bruins, the diminutive back has continued defying the odds.

Now, with Senior Bowl week in full swing, the California native is attempting to make waves. Seen as a power back at 5-foot-10 and 214 pounds, the goal this weekend tis to show he’s more than a plodding runner with a bit of wiggle. So far, the agility has been impressive, but there are other boxes to check as well.

“Definitely the fact that I can pass protect,” Kelley said. “Definitely the fact that I can run routes. Those are my two weaknesses and I’m looking to address that this week.”

In his two years at UCLA, Kelley recorded consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with 12 rushing touchdowns in each. He’s the all-time leading rusher in the storied USC-UCLA rivalry, totaling 334 yards on the ground. Regardless, Kelley is largely seen as a Day 3 project due to a lack of breakaway speed and his aforementioned concerns in the passing game.

Throughout the pre-draft process, Kelley will train at UCLA while finishing his Bachelors degree IN Sociology. Earning his diploma, while a priority for Kelley, was also a non-negotiating point with his mother, Jacqueline.

“It was kind of from both of us,” Kelley said. “Me and her both really wanted me to get my degree. That’s something I really wanted to do. I’ve been at UCLA for three years now and I’m almost done. I made it a huge emphasis for me that I need to graduate. Hopefully when my career is over in the NFL I’ll have that to fall back on.”

Kelley hopes that moment is years away. In the meantime, he’ll continue to work towards improving his draft stock over the next three months.

Pittman showcases skills before injury

Michael Pittman Jr. took a decidedly different route than Kelley.

The son of a former NFL player, Pittman Jr. went to USC and played as a freshman, albeit not seeing an enhanced role until his junior season. As a senior, the Trojans star made a quantum leap, catching 101 passes for 1,275 yards and 11 touchdowns. He saved his best play for November, when the 6-foot-3, 219-pound receiver notched three straight 100-yard games against Arizona State, California and UCLA.

On Tuesday and Wednesday here in Mobile, Pittman towered over most of his opponents, darting of the line to create separation before using his frame to shield the defender. However, Pittman was forced to sit out of Thursday’s practice after tweaking his left ankle. Regardless, the youngster who tries to emulate Brandon Marshall, Michael Thomas and Mike Evans has largely accomplished his biggest mission in Alabama.

“I’m just trying to take away any doubt that people may have, whatever it is,” Pittman said. “I’m just trying to make it so there’s no reason not to pick me.”

As part of a loaded receiver class, Pittman is hoping he can work his way into the first round. Most mock drafts have him projected as a second or third-round choice, although with his body type and pedigree, good interviews and a quality combine showing could give him a boost.

So far, early returns combined with his measurables are promising.

“It’s a combination of speed and size,” Pittman said. “Just a willingness to work. Whether it’s the role that I want or the role that I’m working for.”

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