Three months after completing his senior season and receiving his degree from the University of Arizona, Gerhard de Beer took another big step forward.
The Arizona Wildcats’ offensive lineman worked out Monday in front of scouts from all 32 NFL teams. The UA’s annual pro day can be a jumping-off point for college players looking to get drafted. For those players who, like de Beer, weren’t invited to the NFL Combine, the day serves as a one-day job interview with a potentially huge payoff. The three-day NFL Draft starts April 26.
Few players have come further, geographically and otherwise, than de Beer. He arrived at the UA from Pretoria, South Africa on a track and field scholarship. The 6-foot-6-inch, 262-pound de Beer walked on to the football team in 2013, eventually earning a starting job. He said Monday’s chance to work out for NFL teams was an incredible opportunity.
“If I look back at it, five years ago, six years ago, I never would have dreamed about being at this position, doing what I am now,” de Beer said. “For me, it’s been a great experience. I just want to thank everyone that got me here.”
Unlike de Beer, who continued working out at the Arizona facilities after graduating, Jacob Alsadek hadn’t stepped foot into the stadium since Arizona’s final home game. He said it was surreal to go back onto the field with his old teammates.
“I looked up in the stands and not that many people are there, and you’re so used to seeing it full,” Alsadek said. “It’s kind of weird; I’m never going to be able to play here again.”
Alsadek and de Beer said they didn’t any feedback from any of the scouts, but they believe they performed well.
Aldasek silenced his phone Monday morning in an attempt to avoid distractions. De Beer, however, received phone calls and messages from family and friends back in South Africa.
“I have an incredible support system back home,” de Beer said. “Over here, I had some friends that came out, said they wanted to come watch, too. So, it was a great experience.”
One of Monday’s observers: Former coach Rich Rodriguez, who was fired Jan. 2. He watched 10 of his players work out.
Alsadek said Rodriguez’s attendance Monday meant a lot. He said the coach was both as a mentor and father figure.
De Beer had the same sentiment.
“I don’t really want to get into it, but I’m still extremely grateful to him,” de Beer said. “All I was five years ago was a kid who wanted an opportunity and he gave it to me, and for that I’ll be forever grateful. I owe him everything.”
De Beer said he plans to attending the Arizona Cardinals’ local pro day. After that, he’ll wait for a phone call and his next assignment, whether he’s drafted by an NFL team or signed as an undrafted free agent.
“Whether my name gets called or not, I’ll get an opportunity. I’m sure of it,” de Beer said. “And then I just have to make it happen.”