Former Bearkat football player hopeful that NFL is in his future
Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Updated: Thursday, March 22, 2012 02:03
Former Sam Houston State University outside linebacker E.J. Nduka has had the dream of playing in the National Football League.
On a muddy field in San Marcos on Wednesday, the former outside linebacker became one step closer to achieving that dream as he showcased his talent in front of an estimated 15 scouts as he took part in an NFL Pro Day.
The 23-year-old will continue to showcase his ability, but this time on a national level as he was invited to compete in the National Combine that is going to be held in Detroit.
In January, Nduka alongside former SHSU wide receiver Grant Merritt, competed in the Houston regional designated for those who had not yet been invited to the National Combine.
Out of an estimated 500 hopefuls that competed in the regional, Nduka was one of only 12 athletes that were invited to compete at Nationals. He was also one of two players that were selected from the outside linebacker position.
"I was extremely excited," he said. "It finally felt like all the sweat and tears that I’ve been putting in since my freshman year was paying off. But, I knew now that I’ve been invited to the center stage, I have to show my best so that a team will fall in love with me."
Since the regional, the former Bearkat has been training at Velocity Sports Performance in Dallas every day. He has been training with different players from the University of Texas, Texas Christian University, Utah and McNeese State amongst other schools.
"We work on explosion, speed and position specific drills," he said. "I’ve been training twice a day with good nutrition. I’m just trying to make sure I keep my competitive edge."
During his Pro Day, the 23-year-old demonstrated his abilities in different drills that included running a 40-yard dash, vertical leap, broad jump, shuttle run and an L-drill.
The NFL scouts on hand also wanted to see how he could play in space, move his hips and catch the ball. According to Nduka, he did well in those and "left an impression with them."
After the drills, he was approached by several scouts including ones from the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Pittsburgh Steelers and Atlanta Falcons.
Pittsburgh sent former Steeler defensive tackle "Mean Joe" Greene as their scout. Greene and a scout for the Jaguars approached Nduka after and asked him to run some extra drills.
He also mentioned that the Falcons also wanted to see him perform a 60-yard shuttle run to see how well he could change his direction and maintain his speed.
From a fan’s perspective, Nduka admits that rather than being a fan of an NFL team, he is more of a fan of certain individuals. He admits that he models his game after his two favorite players, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Jeremiah Trotter.
"I really admire Ray Lewis’ faith and he applies it on the field," Nduka said. "He is obviously a future Hall of Famer, but he remains humble and strives to improve every single year and the same thing with Trotter."
At SHSU Nduka was a member of the 2009-2011 active squads. After his first year on the team, the coaching staff changed and current head coach Willie Fritz took over the program.
In his second year at helm, Fritz led the Bearkats to a 14-1 record where they competed in the programs first ever National Championship game.
Nduka likes the changes that the second-year head coach has made and thinks the program is headed in the right direction.
"There’s a lot of talent on the team," he said. "I’ve never been around that many talented people who had the right mind set and the same goals. The team will be really good for a while."
Above all else, Nduka wanted to thank those closest to him for helping him try to achieve this goal.
"I am extremely thankful for the ability God has given me and I am very grateful for my family and friends who have supported me from day one," he said.
The Combine is set for March 29-31 and will be televised on the NFL Network.