Friday, April 24, 2009

University of Albany FCS Football's Rafael Nguti Awaits NFL Call - UAlbany Sports 2009

At 6-foot-7 and 330 pounds, Rafael Nguti is an impressive physical specimen. He stands out in a crowd, and he looks pretty ominous all by himself.

Nguti is hoping to become the third University at Albany football player to be drafted by the NFL this weekend. Kurt Campbell and Rashad Barksdale are the other two.

Many teams have an interest in Nguti, and according to UAlbany head coach Bob Ford, almost all of the NFL teams came back for a second look. Nguti said he would love to be chosen by his favorite team, the Oakland Raiders, but that he would be happy to go anywhere.

Some draft experts see Nguti as a project, but he does have plenty of physical talents, including one of the longest wingspans in the draft.

You can read more on the personable Nguti in my story Thursday morning.

By the way, UAlbany punter Chris Lynch is also a draft possibility. It's more probable, though, that he will be offered a free-agent contract after the draft.

ALBANY — Rafael Nguti enjoys Subway sandwiches, but he’s no Jared.

The 6-foot-7 330-pound University at Albany senior offensive lineman keeps his weight in check by eating his share of subs, but unlike Jared, Subway’s nerdy pitchman, Nguti can’t afford to lose too much weight, especially if he gets a call this weekend during the NFL draft.

After polishing off his chicken sub under the press box at UAlbany’s John Fallon Field, Nguti talked about his chances of being only the third Great Dane to be drafted by the NFL.

Kurt Campbell, who was chosen in the seventh round by the Green Bay Packers in 2005 and Rashad Barksdale, who was picked in the sixth round by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2007, are the only others. Andre Coleman, Schenectady’s Jacob Hobbs, Geir Gudmundsen, Dan Gmelin, Seth Thomas and Matt Caliandro signed NFL free-agent contracts.

“I would love to carry on the legacy of the great linemen we’ve had here at UAlbany, like Jacob Hobbs and Geir Gudmundsen,” said Nguti. “I think the guys who came before me in this program opened the scouts’ eyes about the players at this school.

“This is definitely an amazing opportunity. Every kid dreams of playing in the NFL,” said Nguti, a Rochester native. “My dad has been doing research on the Web for me, and both my parents think this is very exciting.”

UAlbany head coach Bob Ford said Nguti has many of the tools that NFL scouts drool over.

“The No. I thing is that he possesses all the statistical things that the NFL is looking for. He’s 6-7 and 330 pounds. And I heard somewhere that he has the seventh-largest wingspan of all the tackles out there. They love that. Also, he has pretty decent feet for a big man. The other thing is that they give all the recruits an IQ test, and he scored at the Ivy League level. He’s intelligent, well-spoken and articulate. Those are all the pluses.”

Nguti played in 45 career games for the Great Danes, and made 24 consecutive starts over the last two seasons. He was a

major cog in the Great Danes’ back-to-back Northeast Conference championships. The All-American also helped the Danes finish 16th in the country in rushing yards per game (200.6).

“He dominated on our level,” said Ford. “He was like a tsunami. He rolled off blockers like a tidal wave.”

Ford said Nguti proved himself on the Division I FCS level.

“He won two league championships, and has two rushing titles behind him. He was the leading force in the ground game for us,” Ford said. “He has all the physical tools they’re looking for. Everybody in the NFL came in and looked at him once, and almost everybody came back for a second look.

“Jim McNally, who has worked with offensive linemen for the Bengals, Jets and Giants, came to practice and asked me who the big kid was. He said he really liked him. Rafael is the kind of kid who jumps out at you. In high school, he jumped out at you one play out of four. In college, he jumps out at you three times out of four.”

Nguti said he would gladly play for any team, but he loves the Oakland Raiders.

“They have the kind of fans who really love their team, and I would love to play for them,” he said.

“I’ve been working with my cousin, Edward, who is a personal trainer back in Rochester. We’ve been doing workouts and working on my footwork. I know my strength is run blocking, but I’ve got to work on my footwork to be a better pass blocker.”

Nguti said he’ll be home in Rochester Saturday, watching the draft on ESPN and sitting by the tel­ephone. waiting for a call.

“This whole process has been so exciting.” he said. “I got a call the other day from the Carolina Panthers, and they just wanted to touch base with me. That call really made me think that this could be a reality. It’s a very realistic goal.”

UAlbany punter Chris Lynch, also an All-NEC first-team selection, is another draft possibility, but more than likely he will sign as a free agent. Lynch averaged 40.9 yards per punt with a career-best 75-yarder last season.

By Bob Weiner

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