'We are both testing really well': Former Holy Cross stars Coker, Hanson gear up for NFL Scouting Combine

Jalen Coker made catches like this throughout his career at Holy Cross.
Jalen Coker made catches like this throughout his career at Holy Cross.

Late last month, former Holy Cross standout right guard C.J. Hanson was in his hotel room in Frisco, Texas, following the first day of practice for the East-West Shrine Bowl, and casually scrolling his phone and email when he saw it — an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine.

A minute or so later, former HC star wide receiver Jalen Coker, who was also getting ready for the Shrine Bowl, excitedly popped into Hanson’s room.

“I’m like, ‘I got the Combine,’ ” Hanson said in a phone interview last week from Fort Myers, Florida, where he and Coker are training, “and Jalen threw his hands up in the air, and he said, ‘I got it, too!’ It was truly a special moment for us.”

The Combine, which is Feb. 29-March 3 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, is the next step in the Crusader pair’s pursuit of playing in the NFL.

Top executives, coaching staffs, player personnel departments and medical personnel from all 32 NFL teams will be in Indy to evaluate the nation’s top college football players eligible for the upcoming NFL Draft in April.

“It means everything to be invited with an elite group of people,” Coker said. “It means what I’ve been doing on film, what I’ve been doing in weight rooms and in interviews during all-star games with the scouts, the teams have seen something they like. It further proves I can play at the next level.”

Coker and Hanson are just the third and fourth Holy Cross players to receive invites to the Combine. Peter Muldoon attended in 1985 and Gordie Lockbaum in 1988. projects Coker as a fifth- or sixth-round pick, and Hanson as a sixth-rounder.

Since HC’s 2023 season ended in November, it has been a very busy few months for Coker and Hanson.

At the Hula Bowl in January, Coker made an incredible — but not surprising to HC fans who watched him the last four years — one-handed touchdown grab in the back of the end zone. The replay went viral.

“It was awesome,” said Coker, who corralled the throw from Ole Miss quarterback Spencer Sanders. “To do it in the game was really special. It was pretty fun.”

As a senior at Holy Cross, the 6-foot-3, 213-pound Coker led FCS with 15 touchdown receptions and ranked fifth in receiving yards (1,040). He set HC career records for receiving yards (2,715) and TD reception (31), and he made two of the most memorable winning TD catches in HC history, against Sacred Heart in the 2021 FCS playoffs at Fitton Field, and against Buffalo in 2022.

At the all-star bowls, Coker demonstrated his athleticism, speed and route-running talents.

“It was good to see where I stack up against the competition coming out this year,” Coker said, “gauging where I fit in, and I think it was pretty good. I went in there with a little chip on my shoulder, and I feel like I made a name for myself. I proved I could play at the next level, and that's what I was looking for. That’s what bowl games gave me the opportunity to do.”

C.J. Hanson provided a lift for the offense throughout his career at Holy Cross.
C.J. Hanson provided a lift for the offense throughout his career at Holy Cross.

The 6-foot-6, 305-pound Hanson, who was part of five straight Patriot League championship teams at HC, captained one of the top offensive lines in the country last season.

Hanson helped the Crusaders rank in the top 10 nationally in rushing offense, total offense and scoring offense.

In preparation for the Combine and the NFL Draft, Coker and Hanson have been training at the same facility, X3 Performance and Physical Therapy, honing skills and working on strength, speed, flexibility and nutrition, and position-specific testing they will do at the Combine, such as the L-cone drill and 40 for Hanson.

Hanson and Coker see each other every day.

“It’s incredible just having somebody else with you,” Hanson said. “You’re comfortable at all times. I couldn’t be happier with the decision I made to come down here. The trainers are great, and Jalen and I are dominating. We are both testing really well, and we should be able to show out for the Combine. It’s pretty awesome.”

“We say it all the time,” Coker added, “how blessed and fortunate we are to be in this position.”

Coker and Hanson will participate in Holy Cross’ Pro Day March 21, as they continue their pre-draft process and working toward their dreams.

“The biggest thing I’ve gained (during the pre-draft process),” Hanson said, “is just confidence. Coming from FCS and Holy Cross, a smaller program, gaining confidence against bigger recruits, and in the Shrine Bowl showing my athleticism is on par, if not better, than some of the kids who played at the bigger schools.

“It’s an amazing experience for a kid from Holy Cross,” Hanson said, “to be able to do all this and have a brother doing it with you.”

—Contact Jennifer Toland at Follow her on X, formerly known as Twitter, @JenTolandTG.

This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: Former Holy Cross stars Jalen Coker, C.J. Hanson gear up for NFL Combine