The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Leopards declare for the NFL Draft

Four Leopards have declared for the 2024 NFL draft. (Photos courtesy of GoLeopards)

With the 2024 NFL Draft nearing, current and former Leopards are preparing for the road ahead to professional football.

“I’m declared, I signed an agent a couple of months ago, and these past couple of months have kind of just been getting ready for Pro Day,” senior linebacker Billy Shaeffer said.

After declaring for the draft, athletes go through intense workouts as part of the scouting process and often sign agents as part of the transition from collegiate to professional sports.

“It’s a lot of hard work, a lot of training starting since early January,” DaRon Gilbert ‘23 said. “Taking things one step at a time, one day at a time, being consistent, finding my routine and finishing up my Pro Day.”

Gilbert played for four years at Lafayette as a safety and linebacker and graduated last May before heading to Northern Illinois University for his fifth year of eligibility. 

“I have a great relationship still with the staff and all the guys that I’ve played with over the past four years and some of the guys that are still on the team,” Gilbert said. “They’ve always told me if I ever needed anything, I can always reach out to them.”

The network of current and former players with experience going through the draft process provides support for athletes.

“Malik [Hamm] is on the Ravens right now,” Shaeffer said. “I actually signed the same agent as Malik. He’s definitely been helpful through the process. If I have any questions or anything, I’ve leaned on him and reached out to him, and he’s definitely been a help with any advice.”

The Leopards’ coaching staff plays a crucial role in preparing players for the draft process, helping with workout plans and networking. According to Marco Olivas ’23, linebackers coach Mike Saint Germain’s familiarity with the draft process has been invaluable.

“They help to try to get our names out there and do anything they can,” Olivas said. 

Olivas played on College Hill for five years as a linebacker and graduated in December with the class of 2023 and is now preparing for the draft alongside Shaeffer.

“It just makes it so much easier when you got someone next to you and y’all are doing the same things, y’all got the common goal and y’all are rooting for each other at the same time,” Olivas said.

As for Gilbert, his preparation has taken him away from Lafayette. A recent trip to the House of Athlete Gym in Tampa Bay gave him the opportunity to work out alongside current NFL players and other draft prospects.

“Being able to go down there and push each other and compete with those guys and learn from those guys cause they are where I want to be at has provided me some insight on the draft process,” Gilbert said, naming Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Skyy Moore and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Dez Fitzpatrick as players he had the chance to work alongside.

While the NFL draft runs April 25-27, Pro Day workouts loom over draft prospects. NFL teams can host Pro Days for athletes who grew up in hometowns within a 70-mile radius of the teams in addition to college hosts.

Gilbert’s Pro Day took place on March 7 at Northern Illinois University, while Shaeffer and Olivas still await theirs.

“We’ve had our coach try to see if I can get a part of the local day for the Dallas Cowboys cause I’m originally from Fort Worth,” Texas native Olivas said.

Shaeffer’s Pro Day is set for April 1 in East Stroudsburg, but he is looking towards the possibility of participating in the Philadelphia Eagles’ Pro Day as well.

Regardless of the outcome, the three Leopards have given their all to get to the next level.

“I’d be living with a lot of regret if I didn’t at least give it a try,” Olivas said. “I know I’ll be satisfied knowing that I put my all into it whatever the result is.”

“Continue to chase your dreams,” Gilbert said. “Malik, he’s living proof, and I’m sure there’ll be some other guys … that are testaments that you can make it from anywhere.”

Jyaire Stevens ’23, who is currently using his fifth year of eligibility at the University of Buffalo, has also declared for the draft. He did not respond to a request for comment.

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Benjamin White, Staff Sports Writer

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