COLONIE — Ike Irabor starred for four seasons as a running back for the Union football team, wrapping up his career with the Dutchmen third on the school’s all-time leaderboard in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns.
But, hoping to make the leap from Division III college football to the NFL, Irabor knew that the numbers recorded on tape measures and stopwatches Thursday morning meant just as much — if not more — to his future as his prolific stats at Union.
“As a D3 player, you never think you’ll get this opportunity,” Irabor said. “Being here today, I’m working to be in the league. This is one of the biggest dreams I’ve ever had in my life. So, this is surreal, to say the least.”
@dgazette Union’s Irabor, UAlbany’s Greaney, Sibley show their stuff for NFL scouts at Great Danes’ Pro Day – 3/30/23 Daily Gazette
Irabor took part Thursday in UAlbany’s Pro Day workouts, hoping to make an impression on NFL scouts. He was joined by a pair of UAlbany standouts, senior tight end Thomas Greaney and graduate student running back Todd Sibley Jr., as all three attempted to make an impression that could cause a team to call their name when the NFL Draft is held April 27-29 in Kansas City, Missouri.
“I’m just waiting to hear from teams and see what’s next,” Greaney said.
“I’m just hoping that when my phone rings, I get the opportunity to go chase my dream and play in the NFL,” Sibley said.
Scouts from five teams — the New York Giants, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Commanders and Kansas City Chiefs — were on hand for Thursday’s session at Afrim’s Sports Park.
Sibley, Irabor and Greaney worked out for a little less than two hours, starting with drills to gauge their strength, speed and athleticism — the 40-yard dash, broad and vertical jumps, bench press and shuttle drills — before moving on to position-specific drills, with UAlbany quarterback Reese Poffenbarger tossing passes to all three players.
“We’re happy with today,” UAlbany head coach Greg Gattuso said. “It went very smoothly. Everybody’s healthy walking out of here, so it was a good day.”
All three workout warriors were satisfied with the unofficial numbers they put up during the workouts.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Sibley, who ran for 987 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Great Danes in 2022 after arriving as a graduate transfer from Pitt. “Pro Day is the day that you work all your life for. Everybody that plays football at the high school level, at the collegiate level, hopes for this day. We get a chance to come out here, prove you can play at the next level and chase your dream.”
Irabor, who joined the Pro Day thanks to some help from former Union head coach Jeff Behrman, turned some heads of a number of the UAlbany coaches and players who turned up to watch the workout when he hit 37 inches in the vertical jump and 10 feet, 7 inches in the broad jump.
“I definitely give that type of impression to people when they first meet me at these type of events,” said Irabor, who’s also shown himself off for scouts at multiple postseason all-star games.
Greaney also got a chance on the postseason all-star circuit at the East-West Shrine Game, where the Bedford, Massachusetts native spent the week being mentored by the New England Patriots’ coaching staff.
“Growing up as a Pats fan, being able to be coached by those guys was sick,” he said. “You’re around a lot of great players, you learn from them and see what they do well, and with the Pats, you see what they’ve done so well for so many years with the attention to detail and all that stuff.”
Greaney, who caught 50 passes for 693 yards and nine touchdowns in 2022, said he tried to keep his stress level at a minimum on Thursday.
“You just trust the training, go out there and perform,” he said. “It’s no harder than playing in a game. There’s no one else running against me. There’s no defenders guarding me.”
Still, Gattuso said, stress during a day like Thursday is only natural — something he discussed with Albany native and 10-year NFL veteran Dion Lewis, who dropped by for the workout.
“Dion said, ‘Coach, this is the most stressful time, probably in my career,’” Gattuso said. “It is, because the truth of a pro day is that it really doesn’t help you too much, because they’ve already evaluated how you play, but it can kill you if you don’t do well. I think there is a lot of stress, and [scouts] do it that way. They want you to perform under stress.”
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