May 5, 2014
AUBURN, Ala. – Far from the glare of the spotlight, they have worked to get stronger, bigger, faster. They haven’t seen their names on mock drafts or on Mel Kiper’s big board. Gil Brandt has said not a word about them.
They push on in pursuit of little boys’ dreams.
Linebacker Jake Holland and defensive lineman Nosa Eguae know the challenge is stiff. Eguae has worked out for several teams, talked to others and hopes to get drafted in the lower rounds. He knows he could be a free agent. Holland doesn’t expect to be drafted at all. Both performed well at Auburn's Pro Day. In the end, all either of them wants is a chance to go to camp and see what they can do.
“It’s real exciting,” Holland said. “It’s a dream I’ve had since I first started playing football. I had a mentor in my brother growing up. He always had the same dream.”
For the past four years at Auburn, Eguae and Holland were in the eye of the storm. They won a national championship, played in two BCS Championship Games and won two Southeastern Conference championships. They also suffered through a 3-9 season.
The lessons they learned, they’ll tell you, were invaluable.
“Auburn prepared me well,” Eguae said, “just the foundation of how I work. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad, you keep working. I learned that from all the coaches I had at Auburn. People don’t understand sometimes. Even when we weren’t winning, we just kept working and kept working. All that set us up for 2013.
“Those are the type of guys that they like in the NFL. They’ll tell you that they know when they get a guy from Auburn he is going to know how to work.”
Holland and Eguae played for three different defensive coordinators in their four seasons at Auburn. All were different in style and in philosophy, and it was hard. But Holland sees value in it now.
“I learned a lot of ball from each one of them,” Holland said. “I think that’s going to be good for me. One of my coaches (Brian VanGorder) had come from the NFL. He kind of gave me a little bit of a taste of what it’s going to be like. I think I’m ready.”
Eguae has spent significant time working out in Atlanta with Falcons defensive end Osi Umenyiora. Holland has worked out in Auburn. Eguae has swelled to 288 pounds. Holland is at 240.
“Some guys know they are going to get drafted,” Holland said. “Some guys know they are going to be drafted in the first round. Other guys are like me and don’t know what is going to happen.”
Eguae and Holland have plenty of company. Every NFL roster has players who were drafted lower rounds or not drafted at all.
The NFL draft begins Thursday. Probably by sometime next week, Holland, Eguae, Ryan Smith, Ryan White, Cody Parkey, Steven Clark and others who might not be drafted so high or drafted at all will begin their journeys. Where those journeys will lead no one can say.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: