In recent sit down with former Gallaudet defensive end Adham Talaat, the 2014 NFL Draft prospect discussed his experiences training for the draft and his sudden rise from unknown division 3 athlete to having a shot of becoming the school’s first ever NFL player.
In preparation for the draft, Talaat spent the last four months training at TEST Football Academy in New Jersey where he tested his skills against players from division 1 powerhouses such as Miami (FL), LSU, and Notre Dame. Even though Talaat came from a very small, he felt like he fit right in with the division 1 athletes:
“I didn’t feel like I was behind, I felt like I was ahead in some aspects because I tried to take the steps that I could to eliminate any lack of what a division 3 school might have to a division 1 school… I always paid extra attention to the smaller details. I’ve done all that. I’ve taken care of my body like athletes would. Getting in the cold tubs swimming after games, doing whatever I can to help my body and keep playing at a high level. Same with mental… watching film looking at the game plan, making it second nature. I don’t think there was any lack or any gap of myself compared to the other guys.”
While Talaat focused on refining his technique at the defensive end position, his freakish athletic ability helped him stand out to trainers and peers early in training.
“It confirmed my belief in myself that I can hang at that level and I can dominate at that level,” commented Talaat.
Talaat did have a division 1 scholarship coming out of high school to play at UMass, but a coaching change in the spring forced him to reconsider his playing options. Talaat ended up attending community college and stocking shelves at a local TJ Maxx before making the life changing decision to play at Gallaudet.
In November 2013, Talaat and Gallaudet received national recognition when the school was featured on ESPN after clinching their first conference championship and playoff appearance in school history by returning a blocked field goal for a game winning touchdown. The exposure helped Talaat feel less like an outsider during training:
“I was the only division 3 guy there and at least half of them, if not more, knew what Gallaudet was, they knew about the school, they knew about the team and people before I even got there.”
The experience with ESPN also gave Talaat some extra motivation during his push for NFL stardom.
“Seeing my name on ESPN was kind of surreal … to see Gallaudet up there was just very surreal, very rewarding, it made us feel like all our hard work was paying off.”
Talaat’s athletic ability and prowess for man handling triple teams prompted Gallaudet’s first pro day in school history which was held on April 9th. Representatives from Oakland, Seattle, Washington, San Diego, Indianapolis, and Tennessee came to see the 6’6’’ 271 pound athlete with a 6’9’’ wingspan run a low 4.9 40, 30 inch vertical and 9’11’’ broad jump. Also, while Talaat consistently ran the 20 yard short shuttle at 4.14 seconds during training, an unbalanced finish rose that figure to 4.4 seconds at his pro day. His numbers stack up favorably against defensive line prospects who participated at this year’s combine with his broad jump and short shuttle ranking amongst the top performers at the event.
Talaat knew that his pro day performance was not up to par with his numbers in training and graded his outing as a “B+.”
“I have very high standards for myself. Everybody else says I did a great job, personally, I always find that one thing that didn’t go right, like one thing that I could have done better. I have a very competitive nature and I’m my own worst critic.”
Talaat is hoping to join Derrick Coleman, Bennie Sloan and Kenny Walker as the only deaf athletes who have played a down in the NFL. Recently, Coleman, of the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks, has brought the topic to the forefront of the sports world. The two happened to cross paths while Coleman was preparing for Super Bowl weekend:
“My team was being recognized as Hear Strong Champions for being a good role model and a good advocate of the deaf and hard of hearing community. My team was being recognized on Sunday and I got a chance to meet Derrick on Saturday night… I got to talk with him for a few minutes and he said you know ‘This is gonna be you next year… you’re going to be in my shoes next year’ that kind of thing. Just to ‘keep working hard– don’t give up just keep going.’”
The NFL has been under hot water the past season for bullying with the unfortunate saga Jonathan Martin. While being a rookie in the NFL warrants a good deal of unwanted attention, being hard of hearing puts an obvious target on Talaat’s back. When asked how he plans to deal with this potential issue, Talaat seemed unfazed.
“I don’t think that’s an issue at all because growing up hard of hearing my entire life I already developed a thicker skin from a young age” says Talaat. “I know how to be a part of a locker room I know how to be part of a team… there’s going to be, you know, a little knit picking here and there but it’s part of the culture, part of the game… Sometimes they try to get under your skin to see what you’re made of but at the end of the day they’re your teammates– they’re with you every day.”
As an NFL prospect, Talaat’s ideal size and freakish athleticism gives him an outside shot of being a draft pick for one of the 6 teams that attended his pro day. The Washington Redskins have been linked to Talaat since last March and appear to be the silent front runner to select him. However, at this time Talaat has yet to be invited by any team for a private workout. In spite of this, Talaat had this to say at the prospect of becoming the first ever Gallaudet player to be selected in the draft:
“It’s just going to be the culmination of so many years, thousands of hours of hard work, sacrifice, tears, sweat and blood… it would be a tremendous feeling. I used to watch the draft and see guys crying when called. I used to say ‘I’m not gonna cry’– ‘what are you crying about that for?’ …but when I’m in this situation now, I’m in their shoes and I understand— I can totally understand and I wouldn’t be surprised if I started crying… I just might.”
As for now, Talaat remains one of the best kept secrets in the NFL draft. His numbers are being spread around the league and more and more scouts are beginning to take notice. Talaat is optimistic with his chances of playing at the next level, but understands that his fate is out his hands now.
“All I can really do at this point is just wait and see. And that’s the kind of approach I’m taking right now. Keep preparing, keep working hard and let the rest out of my control just play itself out.”
Follow Adham Talaat on twitter @A_Talaat90
–Daniel Jonsson– @HighDesertScout
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