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Meet NFL Draft hopeful Elijah Nkansah, First Team All-MAC OT from Toledo

After improving his numbers at Toledo Pro Day, Nkansah hopes to hear his name called this weekend

Toledo v Ball State Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Toledo offensive tackle Elijah Nkansah watched the game clock tick down second by second at Ford Field on December 3, 2017. The senior lineman’s college career was dwindling down but in his penultimate game as a Toledo Rocket, he was experiencing the pinnacle of his five years he spent armed in a helmet in pads in Northern Ohio.

Toledo routed the Akron Zips to win the MAC Championship, and to make the cake even sweeter, Nkansah earned his first selection to the All-MAC team. Despite a year stocked with achievements, there is one the 23-year old from Mason, OH is still working toward — earning a spot on an NFL roster.

In order to springboard himself into a professional career, Nkansah trained with Geoff Pastrick of PRIME Athlete Development, a company headquartered in Kennesaw, GA with a specialization in offensive lineman development. After undergoing training in Pastrick’s facilities, Nkansah saw a spike in all of his numbers all across the board, ranging from bench press reps to vertical jump height to 40-yard dash time.

This training paid off when Toledo’s Pro Day arrived on March 19. The below graphic shows the drastic augmentation in Nkansah’s measurables after about three months of intense training.

“To me, I think (the improvement came as a result of) repetition,” Nkansah said. “Every week, we did the same thing just to see how much improvement we could get. (Pastrick) really focused on pushing us to be the best we could and he is a former offensive lineman himself. He coached offensive linemen, played college ball, and we can really relate to what he was saying and how he was teaching. He understands the offensive lineman life.”

On March 19, Nkansah and a handful of other Rockets laid their abilities on the line with hordes of scouts onlooking. At an event such as Pro Day, the scouts make minimal interactions with the players, who strive to maintain focus in order for optimal performance. Other than explaining the proper execution of the various drills, the dozens of NFL scouts in attendance made little contact with Nkansah and the other Toledo draft hopefuls. Instead, Nkansah was required to speak loudly through his performance.

“I have a great group of agents and college coaches and even high school coaches that know my abilities and know I can perform at a high level to get my name out there,” Nkansah said.

The offensive lineman also received a sought-after invitation to a postseason all-star game, the College Gridiron Showcase in Addison, TX.

“There were a lot of scouts there and I was able to give them more of what they haven’t seen on film and was able to show them that I know I can do it and perform at the level that I think I can,” Nkansah said. “Just putting your name out there is the biggest thing.”

Nkansah, along with a myriad of other members of the 2017 Toledo roster, had no problem putting his name out there after an 11-3 season that resulted in the team’s first MAC Championship Game victory in over a decade. The Rockets landed a spot in the Dollar General Bowl, and five offensive players, including Nkansah, were showered with First Team All-MAC selections.

“I had a great chemistry with every single person I played on the offensive line with, every receiver, my running back Terry Swanson, and quarterback Logan Woodside,” Nkansah said. “Our coaches helped us achieve that and that just improved our game so much more. We had limited mistakes, a high-powered offense and a great defense to help us whenever we needed to get us to the MAC Championship. And win it.”

As a draft prospect, one of Nkansah’s greatest assets is his footwork. The 6-foot-6, 316-pound tackle possesses sufficient size for a typical NFL tackle and complements his quickness with a strong run-blocking ability. Nkansah anchored the line for prolific running backs including Swanson and 2017 NFL rushing yards leader Kareem Hunt. But if there’s one more aspect Nkansah is set on improving before his first professional snap, it’s the strength of his blocks.

“Footwork can only take you so far,” Nkansah said. “Everybody in college is strong, everybody in the NFL is even stronger. You’ve got to be able to hold your ground. When it improves, I will be a lot better off when and if I make it to the next level.”

The next level could be less than a week away for the former All-MAC honoree. Toledo sending its most talented athletes to the NFL is nothing new, however. Just last season, Hunt, tight end Michael Roberts, and defensive tackle Treyvon Hester all heard their names called at the Philadelphia Museum of Art during draft weekend.

Nkansah has kept close contact with each of these Toledo draftees. Additionally, he has received advice from his former teammate on the offensive line, Storm Norton — an undrafted free agent who landed a spot on the Minnesota Vikings practice squad for the 2017 campaign.

“Each and every one of them, all they have to say is, ‘all you can do is perform to the best of your ability and grind harder than anybody else does, and it’ll work out in your favor. All you have to do is be patient and continue working.’”

Nkansah doesn’t waste energy stressing about mock drafts or attempting to predict where or if his name is called on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday. But he understands how much his work at PRIME escalated his stock when his measurables were recorded at Toledo’s Pro Day.

“Before Pro Day, I was stressed, tired, and always thinking about (my future),” Nkansah said. “After Pro Day, I felt like I performed really well and a lot of weight’s been taken off my shoulders. I was able to breathe and relax for a second, but I still got to continue training and working out and keeping my body up to speed.”

No matter the outcome of this weekend, it’s safe to say we haven’t seen the last of Nkansah on the turf. His message to NFL teams looking to select a lineman:

“I’ve learned to develop mental toughness and develop drive and grit. I’m too far in it to be told ‘no’ or told that I’m not good enough. I have no quit in me.”