Chadron State lineman hopes to play on Sunday

CHADRON – His college football days are over but a Chadron State College standout is expected to have a chance to take his career to another level.

Garrett Gilkey, the Eagles' 6-foot-7, 320-pound offensive left tackle, was visited by scouts from at least 27 of the 32 National Football League teams this fall. Representatives from a couple of other teams have contacted him since the season ended.

"He'll be playing on Sunday next year," says CSC head coach Jay Long, who also coaches the offensive line. "At the very least, he'll be in a pro camp next summer and will have the chance to make an NFL team.

"It's never easy to make a pro roster, but the scouts and team representatives love his size. He's an impressive looking guy and pro teams are always looking for somebody who can play left tackle."

Long says Gilkey's attributes are much more than just his size.

"He moves well and he has outstanding flexibility," Long said. "It's amazing how compact his stance can be. He can get down really low and that helps his blocking."

Gilkey is also strong and fast. He bench presses 500 pounds and has been timed at 5.1 and 5.2 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

He said most of the scouts already had his statistics and they didn't have him do much physically during their visits to CSC, but they interviewed him and watched his game films.

Gilkey is a native of Sandwich, Ill., who played at nearby Aurora Christian High School for Don Beebe, the former Chadron State great and a nine-year NFL wide receiver. He was a three-year starter for the Eagles and earned first-team all-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference honors as both a sophomore and a senior.

His chances of being a three-time all-conference choice were dashed when he required an emergency appendectomy just prior to the season-opener against the University of Mary his junior season. He also missed the next two games.

Gilkey is trying to make the most of the opportunity that appears to be coming his way.

He has arranged to complete his courses this semester online, has signed with an agent and is spending this week visiting training facilities for pro prospects in Florida.

His agent is Jason Cheyut, a member of the SportStars, Inc., which represents about 130 NFL players, Gilkey said.

One of the training camps Gilkey has checked out is the IMG Academy at Sarasota. It is directed by 2000 Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke. Gilkey said he's also looking at the Athletes Performance Academy.

Once he makes the selection, he said personal trainers will work with him on his speed and strength and others will counsel him the best nutrition, "how to say the right thing when I'm interviewed and how to adapt to every situation."

Sportstars will pick up the tab, which will be several thousand dollars, at the training academy he chooses. Gilkey said one session will last about two weeks prior to Christmas and the other will be in January.

Gilkey is also on the watch lists for the Senior Bowl to be played in Mobile, Ala., on Feb. 26 and the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Feb.23-26.

Current projections are that Gilkey could be drafted as high as the fifth round.

Speaking by telephone on Saturday, Gilkey said he will always remember his days at Chadron State fondly. He said he considers the past season as a "great one for both me and the entire team," and is appreciative of the help he received from Long and the other coaches.

"He (Long) was very supportive and continually encouraged me," Gilkey said. "He also pushed my name and made sure we had films available when the scouts came around to find out more about me."

Gilkey said he expects to finish his degree in special education by the spring of 2014.

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