Kristjan Sokoli’s journey will continue in the NFL.
Sokoli, a defensive lineman with the University at Buffalo, was drafted Saturday in the sixth round by the Seattle Seahawks with the 214th overall selection.
“I’m extremely excited,” Sokoli said in a phone interview with The Buffalo News shortly after being selected. “It’s a dream come true. I’m just happy to make my ‘Bull’ family proud.”
Sokoli started all 23 games for the Bulls over the past two seasons, making 61 tackles with 2.5 sacks and eight passes defensed. Sokoli, though, will make a position change in the NFL to guard.
Tom Cable, the Seahawks’ offensive line coach, who put Sokoli through a private workout at the position, encouraged the switch. In a conference call with Seattle reporters, Sokoli said his relationship with Cable made him feel comfortable about changing positions.
“I was open to the opportunity, I didn’t want to close the door,” Sokoli said, via the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “As time passed, I went on an official pre-draft visit to the Seahawks as well, and getting to know Tom Cable through that, and also getting to know Tom Cable through a personal workout here in New Jersey, I really felt like it would be a great fit for me.
“I have great faith in my work ethic and my athleticism,” Sokoli told The News. “I look forward to the challenge ahead.”
The position change is just the latest in what has been a fascinating journey for Sokoli. A native of Albania, he moved to the United States at age 9. He started playing football at age 13 at Bloomfield High School in New Jersey and eventually came to the Bulls in 2010. He redshirted that season and started just once over the next two years before blossoming in his final two seasons.
“Honestly, I thought I had a chance to get drafted,” said Sokoli, who graduated from UB in December with a degree in management with a focus on finance. “I worked really hard and thankfully, my dream came true. … I’m joining a great organization.”
Sokoli, who has been training at Pinnacle Sports in New Jersey, becomes the 10th UB player drafted and third in as many years, joining Khalil Mack (first round to the Oakland Raiders in 2014) and Steven Means (fifth round to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2013).
“I don’t even see it much as a small school any more,” Sokoli said. “We continue to produce talent and show people, you know, we can play some football in Buffalo.”