The NFL draft is impossible to predict.
A year ago at this time, scouts from 30 NFL teams packed the Buffalo Bills’ ADPRO Sports Training Center for the University at Buffalo’s Pro Day.
Quarterback Tyree Jackson and wide receiver Anthony Johnson were the stars of the show, with both expected to be mid-round draft picks.
That, of course, never happened. Both Jackson and Johnson went undrafted, proving that outside perception sometimes doesn’t match up with NFL thinking.
So while the professional turnout for this year’s UB Pro Day – held Wednesday on campus at the Murchie Family Fieldhouse – was far less, no firm conclusions should be drawn. Nine NFL teams – the Buccaneers, Bills, Giants, Jets, Packers, Broncos, Lions, Bears and Browns – were there to watch nine former Bulls work out. Additionally, five CFL teams – the Montreal Alouettes, Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Calgary Stampeders, Saskatchewan Roughriders and Toronto Argonauts – had scouts on hand.
“It all comes full circle today. All the work we've put in the last couple years, it's just great to experience it with your brothers,” said right tackle Tomas Jack-Kurdyla. “I was definitely a little nervous. I didn't want to disappoint anybody. A lot of my friends on the team came out. A lot of my family came out, a lot of different coaches came out. I just didn't want to let anybody down, didn't want to let the University at Buffalo down. They were the only team that offered me a scholarship coming from Montreal, Canada ... so I just wanted to prove to anybody watching that Buffalo is a serious place.”
Jack-Kurdyla may not have a shot at the NFL right away, but he’s a potential first-round draft pick in the CFL.
“I'm just grateful for the opportunity,” he said. “Wherever that lands me, I just want to believe that I gave it all my best. I'm excited that anybody has interest in me at all. Football is different in Canada, so all my life I just wanted to prove to people that you can come from Montreal without having to go to high school football in the states. You can do it that way and still manage to have a great career out of it.”
Joining Jack-Kurdyla in working out in front of scouts were left tackle Evin Ksiezarczyk and left guard Paul Nosworthy.
Ksiezarczyk, a West Seneca East High School product, is thought to have the best chance of being a late-round draft pick, scouts have told The Buffalo News. Short of that, he should sign as an undrafted free-agent and compete in an NFL training camp.
“I always had that dream,” he said of playing in the NFL. “You know it's going to take a lot of work, so I didn't really think it was that realistic, but if you get a scholarship to play Division I football, I feel like most people are always going to be like, 'That's the goal, to go to the NFL, to go to the next level and play at the highest level possible.' Once I got here, it was kind of like, ‘It's really time to put in that work.’ It took time to get to where I was and to start playing.”
Since UB’s season ended, Ksiezarczyk has been training with Matt Gildersleeve, the Bulls’ head strength and conditioning coach.
“I felt really good. I was confident in myself,” Ksiezarczyk said. “I was confident with all the work I did beforehand. … Today was to go out there and have fun and show everyone all the work that I've been putting in.”
Ksiezarczyk, 6-foot-6 and 310 pounds, has maintained the same weight from the season, but improved his body composition. He did 26 reps on the 225-pound bench press and ran the 40-yard dash in an unofficial 5 seconds flat. His broad jump of 8 feet, 11 inches fell just short of his goal of 9 feet. The only testing that disappointed him was his vertical jump of 25.5 inches.
“All the position drills, I was happy with how those went,” he said. “I'm really happy with everything today.”
Ksiezarczyk participated in the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Fla., in late January. That provided an opportunity to test himself against players from some of the top programs in the country.
“I had a lot of fun down there learning from all the NFL coaches,” he said. “The better competition, there were times where I was struggling at little bit, but also there were times where I felt like I showed that I could do well against those guys.”
Other UB players participating Wednesday included Joey Banks, an All-Mid-American Conference first team safety, fellow safety (and Canadian) Dev Lamour, All-MAC defensive end Ledarius Mack, middle linebacker Matt Otwinowski, cornerback Devon Russell and wide receiver Levi Shetler.
Mack, who has a good mentor in older brother Khalil, the Chicago Bears’ superstar and former first-round draft pick from UB, has shed 6% of his body fat as he works on making the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker. He’s been training at Bommarito Performance Systems in Miami.
“It meant the world, just getting out here, coming back to UB,” Mack said. “It's a blessing. It's an amazing experience, you know, getting this opportunity. It's everything I expected it would be.”
As for the advice of his older brother, Ledarius said the only thing he’s picked Khalil’s brain on is footwork.
“Everything else, it’s just natural,” he said. Khalil’s “my manager, so anything I need, he's right there.”
Three players from Colgate – defensive back Abu Daramy-Swaray, long snapper Jake Shaffner and linebacker Nick Ioanilli – also took part, as did quarterback Ben Holmes of Division II Tarleton (Texas) State. Holmes is an Orchard Park High School graduate who was named a Division II All-American honorable mention after throwing for 3,338 yards and a program-record 34 touchdowns (against just three interceptions) as a senior. He was named the Lone Star Conference Offensive Player of the Year.