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Robert Nkemdiche shines at Pro Day, remains upbeat about NFL draft

by | Mar 29, 2016 | Football, Ole Miss | 0 comments

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Robert Nkdemdiche going through drills at Pro Day Monday. (Photo credit: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)

OXFORDRobert Nkemdiche has heard some of the media outlets question his heart and willingness on the football field. And at Monday’s Ole Miss Pro Day, he was also faced with questions about his relationship with his brother, Denzel Nkemdiche, as well as queries about his own mistakes.

But Nkemdiche didn’t shy away from the barrage of questions he faced, and being honest about his slip-ups was the best thing he could have done to start a new direction in his life.

“I have been honest,” Nkemdiche said with a sigh of relief at the conclusion of Pro Day held inside the Manning Center at Ole Miss. 

I have been straightforward with teams, and I have made it clear that’s not who I am. That’s not anything you have to worry about me, because that’s not my character, that’s not my personality. I am a positive person; I will be a great asset to a team and community wherever I end up.

Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss

Nkemdiche remains upbeat, and, though he understands he made a mistake, he will not allow one mistake to determine the next step in his future or define him as a person.

His likable character hasn’t changed one bit. Nkemdiche still has his sense of humor—where at any time he will crack a joke to a close friend, relative or teammate—and also finds interests in other things in addition to football; however, the sport he has played for so many years still remains number one.

Nkemdiche answers questions; Freeze defends his former player

Yet, the questions about Nkemdiche giving up on some plays seemed more important to scouts and media outlets than his overall performance at pro day. When asked about it, Nkemdiche was baffled, but again was sincere in his answers.

“I guess it comes from, sometimes, I miss some plays. I didn’t finish some plays,” Nkemdiche said. “There were times I let some plays slip out of my hand. But as far as taking plays off, I don’t do that.”

His head coach, Hugh Freeze, supported his former player and echoed his sentiments:

The narrative out there that he might not always give effort or there might be some laziness to his game is totally inaccurate to what my experience has been with him over the three years. I want to be very clear: The guy’s very competitive and he gives great effort. He’s one of the hardest workers we have in the strength program and the practices.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze

Nkemdiche excels in Pro Day performance

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(Photo credit: Joshua McCoy)

Nkemdiche was also one of the most prolific defensive tackles for the Rebels in the past three seasons. He was part of the 2013 class—including Laremy Tunsil and Laquon Treadwell—that was the center of attention at Pro Day inside the Manning Center at Ole Miss.

Nkemdiche, who was named an All-Southeastern Conference First-Team member by ESPN and Athlon Sports last season, looked solid in every drill in which he participated.

His agility was obvious as he maneuvered through balloon-inflated dummies and showcased his footwork during the three-cone drill.

Many scouts from different NFL organizations were on hand to watch the 6-foot-3, 294-pound defensive tackle. Teams such as Arizona, Oakland, San Diego, and Denver are keeping close eyes on Nkemdiche, making sure they are making the right decision if they draft the former two-time All-America selection.

Nkemdiche questioned by media at Pro Day 

In the media interview following Pro Day, Nkemdiche was asked more questions—and only a small portion were about what he can bring to a professional football team. The majority of the questions were regarding off-field issues that some experts feel could affect his draft stock, such as his relationship with his brother, Denzel.

Nkemdiche said his brother is doing well now, but added that the two will be keeping their distance, somewhat:

 Me, Denzel and my family have made it to a point where we’re going to be separate for the beginning of my career. We’re going to keep football where football needs to be. I’m going to be handling that, and they’re going to be doing what they do. It’s not really tough because we’re at a point in our life where we’re grown up. We have to understand the situation. It’s tough love, but I’m always going to be there.

Nkemdiche went on to explain that he wants to concentrate on his future: “I just want to be focused on my own and just really tune in to see what’s next.”

Nkemdiche’s draft stock still solid

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Photo credit: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics

Four of CBS Sports mock draft expert analysis have Nkemdiche going late first round to either Buffalo (19th overall) or the Broncos (32nd overall). 

NFL Network’s Bucky Brooks and analyst Charles Davis both have Arizona taking Nkemdiche with the 29th overall pick of the draft. But some NFL teams have been telling Nkemdiche he’s still a consensus top-five or top-10 pick.

After Monday’s Pro Day at Ole Miss, Gil Brandt, former Vice President of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys and current NFL Media analyst, writes:

Defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche — 6-foot-4, 296 pounds — was described as having a special and rare pro-day workout. He is very quick and very strong, and moves extremely well.”

Even with all the questions and opinions being bandied about, Nkemdiche, himself, is not worried: 

From a lot of coaches and general managers, I have heard a lot of good things. I have been hearing top-five, top-10, so I’m not worried.

The NFL Draft begins April 28. 

(Feature image credit: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)

Courtney Smith
Courtney Smith

Courtney is from Memphis and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Memphis in May of 2014. He began his journalism career covering the Memphis Tigers Men’s basketball team, which landed him an intern position on 730 Yahoo Sports Radio and a position with Rivals.com. A freelance writer for the Associated Press, Courtney is also a member of The Rebel Walk team and reports regularly on Ole Miss football and basketball. Courtney, the father of a six-year old girl named Soniyah, prefers to cover NCAA basketball and football, but is happy to report on any other sport that comes his way.

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