Playing at a mid-major football program is no guarantee of NFL Draft status.
It might get a player a look. After all, NFL scouts are in the business of finding talent. If a player has it, they will find him.
Former University of Akron standout linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III might have been discovered. He’s been projected as a late-round selection to an undrafted free agent. He’s been getting the looks that he earned. Gilbert worked out for more than a few NFL teams, the most recent being the Los Angeles Chargers and Atlanta Falcons.
He has a respectable collegiate resume, having played in every game in his four years. He was chosen first-team All-Mid-American Conference his sophomore and junior years and second-team All-MAC as a senior and earned aninvitation to the East-West Shrine Game.
The 6-foot-1, 230-pound native of Ocala, Fla., has the speed for the NFL, according to several draft analysts. What they knock him for is his strength. Gilbert isn’t concerned with any of that, including his draft status. Others have a different opinion.
“If he doesn’t get a shot, it would be ridiculous,” said former UA associate head coach and defensive coordinator Chuck Amato, who’d definitely have some insight. He recruited Gilbert to UA.
“He’s a very good player. He’s got size. He’s bigger than [Jatavis Brown] was,” Amato said. “If he’s not drafted, someone is going to pick up a great player [as a free agent]. To me, if he doesn’t get drafted in the first five rounds, he should hope he doesn’t, so he can pick his own team.”
As for Gilbert, he uses the word “blessed” a lot to describe the position he’s in with the draft just around the corner, stating that he’s been happy with the process. It doesn’t sound disingenuous in the least when he does so, but he owes his opportunity to the hard work he put in at UA.
Make no mistake about how he wants that to pay dividends for him.
“That’s my dream and definitely I feel like I will get drafted. At the end of the day, you don’t really know what’s going to happen, but I just know God has a plan in store, but whatever it is, it’s the best plan for me,” he said on a brisk Tuesday morning as his former team held spring practice at InfoCision Stadium.
He’s come a long way since arriving. Habits that he picked up from former players, especially Brown, who he speaks with nearly every day, have helped him in the process with NFL scouts.
“As soon as I got here,” he said of Brown during his sophomore year, “he took me under his wing and showed me all of the little things he picked up when he was here at the time and taught me different techniques and different things to look at on the other side of the ball.”
Scouts appreciate his work in the film room as much as the work on the field. It could be a sign that on that day, his workout came with a Chargers scout, Brown’s current team. Does he have a preference as to where he plays? The answer for someone chasing a dream is obvious.
“It’ll be a blessing just to play football and do what I love to do,” he said. “Anywhere I go will be a blessing and will be the best team for me.”