NFL draft a chance for UNH players to fulfill dreams
Published: Friday, April 27, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
Every boy who has ever played organized football has dreamed of being selected in the NFL draft. For 253 college athletes, those dreams will become a reality this weekend.
For some people, the NFL draft is the greatest part of the football season. This is where your favorite team can make or break their franchise. Many know the top choices, but still up in the air is are the players from the smaller FCS schools that can make an impact in the league. Three of UNH’s own hope to hear their name called over the weekend, with the hope that they can make that impact.
Leading up to that moment when players find out whether or not they will be joining one of 32 NFL rosters, players have to go through intense evaluation.
“It’s been a long process,” Brian McNally, UNH defensive end and NFL prospect, said. “You start off preparing for the pro day. Once the pro day happens, you wait and see what happens. Teams call, show interest in you, ask for [game] film.”
Then when the pro day arrives, the players are given a chance to showcase what skills they have that make them a valuable prospect.
“[At the pro day] you go through everything you see at the NFL combine … the non-football drills. At the end, they put you through the actual football drills, what you’re going to be doing in a game-like situation,” McNally said.
While McNally played defensive end during his career with the Wildcats, scouts wanted to see if he could play an outside linebacker position at UNH’s pro day. This practice is typical to the NFL draft scouting process, as teams look to see what players are versatile.
“They put me in linebacker drills at first, looking to see how I could drop [into pass coverage],” McNally said. “Then they put me in defensive end drills to see how well I could rush the passer.”
McNally feels as if his biggest contribution to an NFL squad would be his work ethic and desire to contribute.
He hopes that NFL teams who are thinking about either drafting him, or potentially signing him as an undrafted free agent catch those traits.
“The biggest thing I could bring to a team is just hard work. Whether it’s on the special teams [or] whether it’s on practice squad,” McNally said. “Whatever they want me to do, at this point in my career it doesn’t matter to me as long as I’m just helping the team win.”
Another member of the UNH football team who is hoping to see his dream come true during this weekend’s NFL draft is defensive end James Jenkins.
Jenkins, who was also a participant in UNH’s pro day back in March, has felt a decent amount of anxiety while participating in the draft process.
“[The draft process] has been nerve-wracking,” Jenkins said. “Trying to figure out what my position is and where I am in the draft pool. I’ve been talking to my agent and he’s been giving me some positive feedback.”
From Jenkins’ discussions with his agent, getting his name out there for franchises at all levels is extremely important.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen, if I’m going to go late in the draft or if I have be considered an undrafted free agent.” Jenkins said. “So far my agent has been putting my name out there for me. He’s spoken to about half of the teams in the league and a couple of guys in the Canadian Football League.”
Jenkins said no matter where he goes, the chance of getting to play football on a professional level would be a dream come true.
He is aware there are challenges up ahead, but is ready to receive his shot.
“The biggest challenge [when adjusting to the NFL] would be being overwhelmed,” Jenkins said. “It’s always been a dream of mine getting to that next level. It would be a reality shock, like, ‘I’m here, now I have to do everything in my power to keep my position and let them know that I deserve to be here.’ Whether it’s offense, defense, special teams, or water boy, I’m going to do whatever I can to earn my spot.”
McNally, Jenkins and quarterback Kevin Decker – UNH’s other NFL prospect who could not be reached for comment – all hope to be the first player from UNH to be drafted since cornerback Corey Graham was taken 168th overall in the 2007 draft by the Bears.
NFL draft coverage continues this weekend on ESPN, with rounds two through three kicking off Friday at 7 p.m., and rounds four through seven continuing on Saturday at noon.