Austin Ajiake has played a lot of football games in the city of Las Vegas. Nineteen to be exact, including the 2023 East-West Shrine Bowl.
The UNLV linebacker is no stranger to Allegiant Stadium, enjoying a dominant All-MWC senior season, with 132 total tackles, 11 tackles for loss and four sacks. Despite playing in the Sports and Entertainment Capital of the World for five seasons, he received a different type of Vegas experience inside of the Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center on Friday.
Ajiake, along with other players from UNLV, USC, UCLA and some Las Vegas natives, were invited to partake in the Raiders' local pro day. Head Coach Josh McDaniels, General Manager Dave Ziegler and the team's coaching staff were all in attendance, continuing their due diligence of evaluating all prospects ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Pro days are helpful for getting a closer look at local prospects on the radar of staffs, including the Raiders' seventh-round pick from 2022, Brittain Brown, who was in attendance last year.
"The local pro day is an important part of our evaluation process each year, and we were thrilled with the participation from each of these prospects today," said Ziegler. "The Las Vegas area has a rich football tradition, and it was productive for us to get this time with the talent in the region."
Ajiake, having grown up less than 30 miles southeast of Oakland, was grateful for the opportunity to show out in front of his childhood team. He's already experienced the thrill of playing in Allegiant Stadium in high-profile games, including defeating state rival University of Nevada-Reno in the "Battle for Nevada" as well as a four-tackle performance in the East-West Shrine Bowl game back in February. According to Ajiake, he "would love" to have the chance to stay in Las Vegas – if the opportunity presented itself in the draft.
"It's not every day you get to come out here and showcase your talents and your gifts in front of NFL coaches and GMs and the actual position coaches," said Ajiake. "To just come out here and play ball is really the mindset I had going in. It gives us a great opportunity to come out here and showcase what we can bring to the table to a team."
For former Minnesota Golden Gophers safety Jordan Howden, the Las Vegas sports scene looks different than it did his senior season at Desert Pines High School.
"When I came out here [in high school], there wasn't a team here," Howden said of coming back to Las Vegas to partake in the pro day. "And having that stadium built, it was just straight up rocks there at first."
Howden accumulated four interceptions and 20 pass deflections in his college career, and ran a 4.49 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. His uncle, Saladin Martin, won a Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49ers in 1981. Howden has hopes to carve out his own NFL journey starting with the draft.
"To come out here and be able to show out for the organization and show what I can do and show my talents, I feel this was a pretty cool experience," he added. "It doesn't matter who you are or what's going on, there's always a chance and opportunities. So when you do have those opportunities, just make the best of it and have fun."
The Las Vegas Raiders and Nike teamed up to donate $5,000 in equipment to the Bonanza High School and Valley High School football teams and the Legacy High School and Western High School flag football teams.