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Bengals Local Pro Day: The Owner, The Prospect, And Jowon Briggs' Lists That Fuel His Dreams

UC DT Jowon Briggs during the Bengals Local Pro Day on Tuesday, April 16, 2024 at the IEL Practice Facility.
UC DT Jowon Briggs during the Bengals Local Pro Day on Tuesday, April 16, 2024 at the IEL Practice Facility.

Jowon Briggs, the University of Cincinnati tenor who grew up close in Pleasant Ridge before making beautiful music along the Bearcats defensive line, hit a high note Tuesday at the Bengals' local pro day.

Nine days before the NFL Draft, the 6-1, 310-pound Briggs has outplayed the word "versatile," and is pushing around "amazing," like he tossed the bench press a combine-busting 39 times late last month at the Big 12 pro day.

He has stood up, been to the edge, and played nose tackle while securing his computer software degree in three years and spreadsheet cred in football analytics the past two months. He and his wife are raising three kids while he raises his draft stock.

Spurned by the Senior Bowl and NFL scouting combine, Briggs has made lists of those who made it instead of him while he chased down their workout numbers.

"I've still got it in my phone," he said.

Not only that, he sang the national anthem in front of 15,000 at a packed field house before a college basketball game and headlined musicals while attending Cincinnati's prestigious Walnut Hills High School.

A 2017 edition of The Cincinnati Enquirer scouted his performance in "Ragtime," as Coalhouse Walker Jr.: "a role which he expertly executed. Briggs' commitment to his character and smooth, jazzy voice made his performance as the Harlem musician quite believable."

But Briggs never did this:

After Tuesday's half-hour workout with about 30 prospects at the IEL Indoor Facility, Bengals president Mike Brown politely broke into Briggs' session with the press to shake his hand. Brown usually reserves that for players who have already been drafted, but Briggs' resume brought him across the turf, and he needed no introduction.

"We're glad to have you down here," Brown told him and Briggs told him how his father used to bring him to then-head coach Marvin Lewis' "Learning Is Cool," camps and how he enjoyed running around the field and getting a medal.

"You're a very good student," said Brown, turning to the reporters to acknowledge Briggs' varied abilities. "He does music. We could hire him to be a beat writer."

Briggs has loftier goals, but he's thrilled with the handshake.

"I was taken aback when the owner came up to talk to me. It was a humbling experience to say the least," Briggs said. "For once, I was at a loss for words. It was honoring, humbling that someone at this level knows me and especially with the pull that he has. It means a lot to me."

The local pro day means many things to many people.

For Ohio State linebacker Steele Chambers, it meant wearing a No. 56 Bengals jersey over his street clothes. He's a top-ten linebacker in this draft and he was here for the meet-and-greet.

For Cornell Beachem, a 5-7 small school wide receiver, it was the chance to celebrate a unique college experience. Beachem, a Winton Woods High School grad who also stayed home at Cincinnati's Mount St. Joseph College, just won the NCAA Division III 174-pound wrestling title.

For area scout Andrew Johnson, Tuesday was the ninth local day he's organized for the Bengals and it culminates years of monitoring.

"It's pretty cool putting together the local workout," Johnson said. "One thing we like to do is reward kids from the area who have had successful college careers at no matter what level."

Players from three colleges can attend the local day: UC, Miami University, and Ohio State. Also, prospects who played their high school careers in a 50-mile radius of Paycor Stadium can attend. The local guys don't count against the Bengals' 30 visits they're allowed at Paycor before the draft and that was helpful in 2018, when eventual picks Sam Hubbard and Billy Price came down from Ohio State for the local day.

Johnson knew several of Tuesday's prospects because they're in his scouting region, such as Briggs, Pittsburgh defensive tackle Tyler Bentley (Lakota West High School), and Eastern Michigan wide receiver Tanner Knue out of Mason High School.

But others, such as Louisiana Tech safety Cecil Singleton out of Princeton High School, have to be tracked. One of the tools is handy search functions on those lists that details everything from 40-yard splits to cell phone numbers.


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Johnson knows Briggs well because he knew he was a four-star recruit out of Walnut Hills who had opted for Virginia before transferring to Cincinnati. Both schools are in Johnson's region.

"Extremely impressive. Wife, three kids, fluent in four languages, fantastic life skills," Johnson said. "Very worldly. He'll be successful in whatever he does and then probably a couple of other things at the same time."

Briggs is strong enough and athletic enough that he can be successful in the NFL. What that means in the draft, no one quite seems to know.

One mock has him going in the fourth round to the Chiefs. Another one has him going in the sixth round to Dallas. But he's definitely a late bloomer for the folks who didn't invite him to Mobile or Indy.

And he was so steamed, he played well enough in the Hula Bowl all-star game to get promoted into the East-West Game. The Bengals talked to him on-site before each of those games and assured him he'd be invited to the local day for a physical.

"Every single guy that got a Senior Bowl invite, every single guy that got a combine invite, I put down his exact measurements," Briggs said. "Height, weight, hand size, arm length, what they ran in the 40, their 40 split, bench press. And who didn't compete."

Briggs isn't a Thursday or Friday night pick, allegedly, because he's 6-1 and has 32 ¼-inch arms. That's about two inches off for the number crunchers.

But they'll also have to crunch his 39 reps of 225 (he says it was really 42), five more than the leading defensive tackle at the combine, LSU's Jordan Jefferson, and double-digits more than projected first-rounder Byron Murphy II of Texas.

Briggs went as far as to break down the tackles from 295-305 pounds, from 305-310, and those beyond. He's produced in all three ranges. He chose to go into the pro day "as strong an athlete I could be," at 314 pounds.

But the weight didn't take away from his athleticism. His 7.53-second three cone drill would have been the second fastest at the combine and faster than any 300-pounder. His 20-yard shuttle of 4.71 seconds would have been in the combine top ten and, he says, faster than the biggest guys.

Briggs compared Tuesday's session to the on-field drills at his pro day. Been there, done that. But it was his first meeting with defensive line coach Marion Hobby on Tuesday and that time was bigger than any time.

"Every time I can step on the gridiron, it's an interview," said Briggs on a day of intros.