INDIANAPOLIS – Jamil Demby had an outstanding career at the University of Maine. The Vineland (N.J.) High product started 40 games at left tackle for the Black Bears and was a first-team FCS All-American last fall.
But as recently as late December, he was barely a blip on the NFL’s radar screen. He hadn’t been invited to any postseason all-star games and wasn’t one of the 300-plus college players invited to this year’s scouting combine.
“It was a little frustrating,’’ Demby admitted this week. “But I think the people around me were more frustrated than I was. I was just going to embrace the process. Stay true to myself, try to improve and see what happened.’’
In early January, he got an eleventh-hour invitation to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl all-star game in Los Angeles, where he played well. That led to an invitation to the more prestigious Senior Bowl.
“I went over to talk to my dad after the [NFLPA] game, and he was real excited,’’ Demby said. “He said to me, ‘You’re going to the Senior Bowl.’ My agents had contacted him and told him. It was just a great feeling. Next morning, I was on a plane to Mobile.’’
Demby held his own against some of the draft’s top edge-rushers at the Senior Bowl, including Oklahoma’s Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Texas-San Antonio’s Marcus Davenport. His performance earned him a late invite to the combine.
“I’ve been earning everything I’ve gotten,’’ said the 6-4 ½, 319-pound Demby. “Rising to the occasion when I’ve gotten an opportunity.
“There was some doubt at the Senior Bowl that I wouldn’t showcase well. But I just kept improving as the week went on. Saturday was my best day. Game day.
“You have analysts and announcers and teams that may doubt you because you’re a small-school guy and they don’t think you can play with the big-school guys. It’s a sweet feeling to know I can. I’ve put in the work, and I’m here.’’
Demby didn’t have a particularly good workout here last week. He ran a 5.58 40, which was the second-slowest time of the 37 offensive linemen who ran. And his 17 reps in the 225-pound bench press were the fourth fewest among the o-linemen.
But he’ll get a chance to improve on those numbers at Maine’s Pro Day in three weeks. And his 2017 film and his play at the Senior Bowl will carry considerably more weight with NFL teams than his workout numbers.
Demby met with more than 15 teams at the combine, including the Eagles. He probably will be a late-round pick or a priority free agent. But the NFL door is open for him now. What happens after that is up to him.
While Demby played strictly left tackle at Maine, he could wind up anywhere in the NFL. Some scouts think he can play outside at the next level. Others feel he’ll be moved inside, at least initially.
“Before my senior season, I was hearing center-guard, even though I had been playing tackle,’’ Demby said. “I guess because of the competition I had played against at tackle.
“But as the season went on, I played against some faster rushers. Then, going to the NFLPA game and playing tackle and going to the Senior Bowl and playing against some of the top edge-rushers in the draft and playing well against them, I think the conversation has shifted more to [staying at] tackle.
“But I’ll play wherever they want me to. That’s why I’m trying to be as versatile as possible. It’s hard for a guy to go from guard to tackle. But it’s easy to go from tackle to guard. So, if I just show my athleticism, with my size, I feel it’ll be a smooth transition.’’
Demby does not lack for confidence. He never has doubted that he could play at the next level. He faced some formidable edge-rushers at Maine, including Villanova’s Tanoh Kpassagnon, who was a second-round pick of the Chiefs last year, and Stony Brook’s Victor Ochi, who played briefly for the Jets last season before being signed by Tennessee.
“Maine prepared me well,’’ he said. “I had some really good coaches there. I watch a lot of film, so mentally, I knew I could play with these [big-school] guys. Everybody bleeds the same.
“I went to the bowl games focused on just trying to dominate and let the chips fall where they may. After the NFLPA game, I felt I did really well in both the workouts and the game, and that sparked my confidence even more. Same thing at the Senior Bowl.’’
Vineland High School never has had a player make it in the NFL. Demby has a chance to change that.
“That motivates me,’’ he said. “Playing for my city and my school and making my family proud. It motivates me to get up every morning.’’