Pro Day

Cam McDaniel runs a drills during pro day Tuesday, March 31, 2015, in South Bend. SBT Photo/BECKY MALEWITZ

Cam McDaniel had reason to be in a hurry during Tuesday’s Pro Day at Notre Dame.

The former Irish running back was headed back to California where he and his wife are awaiting the birth of their first child.

“She’s literally expecting any day, so I need to hurry back home and get back to her because we’re going to have our daughter soon,” McDaniel said. “It’s been awesome.”

McDaniel and his wife, Stephani, married in May just months before his senior season at Notre Dame. Summer football followed by fall camp didn’t allow for a lot of free time together for the newlyweds. They’ve been catching up lately as McDaniel has been training in Irvine, Calif., for a shot at the NFL.

“It’s been great to be out in California a little bit relaxing and having some time together,” McDaniel said. “We haven’t had a lot of that especially once football season started. It was good. A nice, relaxing time. We got to go down to the beach every now and then after workouts and spend some together. I’m excited to start a family.”

She has even helped McDaniel with training during her pregnancy. Recently McDaniel shared a video on Instagram of him catching footballs from a JUGS machine in a parking lot. There was his pregnant wife, feeding balls into the machine and catching the return throws from her husband.

The two have also played catch at times over the past few months. McDaniel gave her strong reviews on the athleticism front.

“Her hands are extremely natural,” McDaniel said. “She can catch anything. She was catching one-handed, back-handed balls just like nothing. She has a natural ability to just pluck the ball out of the air. And then she can throw. She can put it where it needs to be. She’s a heck of an athlete. She always has been.”

McDaniel recalled playing racquetball against Stephani when the two first started dating. She beat him the first game. Being the competitor that he is, McDaniel took the second game more serious and still ended up with another loss.

“I was like, ‘This is not cool. This is not going to fly,’” McDaniel said. “Then I started thinking to myself, ‘Well, this could be good for my genes.’ So that’s always been my mindset about it. I got one heck of an athlete for a wife. We’re going to have some pretty athletic little kids.”

The athletic prowess of McDaniel was the one under scrutiny Tuesday. With scouts from 28 NFL teams at Notre Dame, the 5-foot-9, 185-pounder performed well in testing. In the three-cone drill, used to measure quickness in changing direction, he notched a time of 6.78 seconds. That time was better than any running back at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.

McDaniel also recorded times of 4.52 in the 40-yard dash and 4.21 in the 20-yard shuttle, both of which would have placed him 12th at the combine. McDaniel was not invited to the combine.

Melvin Gordon, who won the 2014 Doak Walker Award for college football’s best running back, clocked a 7.04 in the three-cone drill, a 4.52 in the 40-yard dash and a 4.07 in the 20-yard shuttle at the combine.

Analyst Scott Wright of draftcountdown.com said McDaniel helped himself with some of his testing numbers.

“The more you can do the better for a guy like Cam McDaniel,” Wright said. “And if teams feel like they can use him not just as a running back and a guy who can catch the ball out of the backfield, but maybe somebody who can line up in the slot and move around and give them a chess piece and if he can contribute on special teams, he’s got a chance.”

McDaniel entered Tuesday hoping to show the kind of versatility Wright referenced.

“I really want to show people my elusiveness,” McDaniel said. “I really think that I’m a versatile guy that can catch the ball out of the backfield, can do things out of the backfield, can run smooth routes out of the backfield, get in and out of breaks and really give linebackers nightmares.

Notre Dame rarely used McDaniel as a receiving threat in his four years. He logged just 17 catches for 151 yards in his Irish career. But if McDaniel can convince NFL teams that the lack of production was more reflective of the Irish game plan and not his skill set, it could make McDaniel a more valuable asset. He’s open to playing as a slot receiver.

“If that’s a place where somebody sees me, I think that’s a role I could fulfill,” McDaniel said. “I just want to start catching as many balls as possible. Make it natural again. At Notre Dame, I didn’t catch nearly as many balls as I would have liked to out of the slot, but in high school that was something I did a lot. It’s just been getting back to that place where catching the ball is natural again.”

Where McDaniel found the most success at Notre Dame was as a traditional running back. He led the Irish with 705 rushing yards and three touchdowns as a junior. He fell behind Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant during his senior season and accounted for 278 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

McDaniel said his film should show his ability to run the ball between the tackles and that being a running back “is a natural thing.” If he’s able to land on an NFL roster, he’ll likely have to do more than be a ball carrier.

“I don’t think he’s going to be drafted, but I can very easily see him in a camp,” Wright said. “And special teams is going to be his ticket. If he gets into a camp and he wants any chance of making a team, he’s going to have to excel on special teams.”

With his daughter’s birth closing in, McDaniel plans to spend the next month out in California with his wife. He is finishing up one last credit from afar before graduating in May. McDaniel will continue to prepare himself physically for whatever teams come calling. In a couple more months, he expects to be playing football in some form.

“I’d be really shocked if it went any other way,” McDaniel said. “I’m an athlete that is capable of playing at the next level. For me, I don’t even think about any possibilities of not playing. I think I’ll get a shot.”

tjames@ndinsider.com | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI