Valdosta Daily Times

Local Sports

February 27, 2013

Chasing an NFL dream

VSU’s Kugbila pursuing a pro career

VALDOSTA — Edmund Kugbila is dream chasing.

A former Valdosta State offensive lineman, who helped guide the Blazers to a national championship this season, Kugbila is well on his way to a career in the National Football League.

“It is incredible,” Kugbila said. “First, I have to thank God. I pray every day and I pray for this. The support behind me, from Atlanta to Valdosta, the Twitter messages, the text messages from teammates and everybody, it is awesome.”

Kugbila took a major step towards securing his professional football future this past weekend when he participated in the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, where he was evaluated by NFL coaches and executives.

“It was great, amazing,” Kugbila said, of the Combine. “Just to be around NFL coaches and see how the NFL does everything. It was crazy. People I watch on ESPN and stuff, to be able to compete against them, it is an unbelievable feeling.”

Kugbila arrived in Indianapolis for the Combine last Wednesday. For the first two days, he met with various head coaches and general manager, proving the mental aspect of his game was sharp enough to compete with the best in football.

While meeting with teams, Kugbila was asked all sorts of questions, even about his relationship with former Blazer and current Minnesota Viking Larry Dean.

“I met with some Minnesota coaches and one question was how much do I talk with Larry,” Kugbila said. “I told them that during the process, if I didn’t know something, I’ve asked him.”

Once Saturday rolled around, Kugbila’s job interview with the NFL turned physical. He underwent the basic physical tests, including the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical and broad jumps, 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuffle.

“The physical drills, I think I put up pretty good numbers,” Kugbila said. “My agent, myself, my trainers were happy and we look forward to improving on them.”

The shuffle, a drill that helps show quick footwork and agility, an important aspect in playing offensive line, was his best drill of the day. Kugbila finished in 4.65 seconds, the 11th quickest of any offensive lineman at the combine.

“I’m pleased because that is one drill I can excel at,” Kugbila said. “That helped me and that helped me talk with coaches at the NFL Combine. That alone, it helped me interact with coaches and stuff.”

To help prepare for an NFL career, Kugbila did not return to Valdosta State this spring semester and has instead been training at GATA Gym in Duluth, a suburb of Atlanta.

Now back home in Gwinnett County, following the Combine, Kugbila is back to work at GATA, where a typical day includes him arriving at 7 a.m. for morning treatment and stretching. Then it is work time.

Kugbila undergoes hours of workouts, from speed and agility drills, weight training and offensive guard position drills that will help him in an NFL training camp this summer.

He leaves the complex around 3 p.m. — it used to be 4 p.m. — and does it six days a week.

“We are easy backing into it now following the Combine,” Kugbila said. “My trainer has a plan. We are trying to get better for Pro Day.”

The hardcore training at GATA has helped Kugbila transition his body into the mold needed for an offensive lineman able to compete on the highest level of professional football.

After being listed at 6-foot-5, 347 pounds this past season at Valdosta State, Kugbila weighed in at the NFL Combine at 317 pounds.

“The NFL is going to be a faster game than Valdosta,” he said. “The best of the best play in the NFL and that is why I got thin.”

Prior to participating in the Combine, Kugbila was ranked as the No. 22 best available guard for the upcoming April NFL Draft, according to CBS Sports.

He hopes that his performance this past weekend will help his draft stock, and that his performance at the Valdosta State Pro Day March 18 will help it even more.

A native of Ghana, Kugbila moved to the United States in 2000 at the age of 10. He began playing football in seventh grade and went on to attend Central Gwinnett High School where he was a major standout.

During his senior year, he received college offers from Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Vanderbilt, but he fell short of qualifying for a Division II school and instead signed with Valdosta State.

It is a move he doesn’t regret.

“I wouldn’t have changed nothing,” Kugbila said. “I made a lot of best friends there. God had a reason for me being in Valdosta. It has turned out beautifully. I’ve met my best friends in Valdosta and I’ll never forget it. Valdosta is an awesome place.”

Kugbila was a key reserve offensive line as a freshman, developing into a full-time starter as a sophomore.

By time he was a senior, Kugbila was a household name throughout the Gulf South Conference and country, and he helped anchor a senior-laden offensive line that paved the Blazers’ path to the national championship in 2012.

With Kugbila as the right guard, the Blazer offense rushed for a school-record 218 yards per game and boasted a pair of 1,000-yard freshman running backs.

Kugbila capped his senior season by helping the Blazers rout Winston-Salem State 35-7 in the championship game.

“We won the championship because we proved we were the best in Division II,” Kugbila said. “That won’t hurt my (draft) status. They can watch film. They can see how we played. We weren’t a regular DII school.”

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