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Kristjan Sokoli drafted in sixth round of NFL Draft by Seattle Seahawks

Former Bulls defensive tackle to switch to offensive line

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Former Buffalo football team defensive lineman Kristjan Sokoli stood out to multiple NFL teams after an impressive Pro Day this past March. But out of all the teams he visited and spoke with, there was one that he liked the most.

“I’m not going to lie, Seattle was my best visit,” Sokoli said with a chuckle.

While sitting at home with family and friends this weekend, Sokoli picked up a phone call from with a Seattle area code welcoming him into the NFL.

Sokoli was selected 214th overall in the sixth round of the NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday. Sokoli played with Buffalo from 2011-14 and finished his career as a Bull with 95 tackles, 15 tackles for losses and 4.5 sacks.

“It feels great,” Sokoli said. “This was really a dream come true and I feel excited for the challenge and process ahead. I’m excited to start my NFL career as a member of the Seattle Seahawks. I truly cannot wait for training camp.”

But Sokoli’s jump to the NFL comes with a position switch.

After playing on the defensive line for his entire Bulls career, Sokoli is expected to move to the offensive line for the Seahawks. ESPN announced Sokoli as a defensive end during the NFL Draft, but the Seahawks formally announced him as an offensive guard and have said he will play at both guard and center for Seattle.

“I spoke briefly to [Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll] and General Manager Jon Schneider, but I especially enjoyed some board work with offensive line coach Tom Cable,” Sokoli said. “He was really good to work with on the board, showing some of the scheme and what he expects from the offensive line. After that conversation, I was really excited to work with him and play offensive line.”

Sokoli moved to America from his native Albania when he was 9 years old. He had never even heard of American football before arriving in the United States. He only played soccer football back home, but eventually started to play American football when he was 13 years old. He eventually transitioned into a standout player at Bloomfield High School in Bloomfield, New Jersey.

Sokoli played various positions on his high school roster, including left tackle, defensive end, tight end, punter and kicker, which may help him in his transition to the offensive line in the NFL.

The Seahawks use a formula created by Nike that uses metric results to decide to take in late round selections. Nike’s Speed, Power, Agility, Reaction and Quickness (SPARQ) score is rating of metrics that determine explosive athletes on both sides of the football.

Entering the draft process, Sokoli was relatively unknown to many NFL teams. After failing to get a combine invite, Sokoli had to impress at the Buffalo Pro Day held at the ADPRO Sports Training Center in March and did so. Sokoli finished with times of 4.84 and 4.88 in the 40-yard dash, 38 inches in the vertical leap, 7.25 in the three-cone drill and 31 reps in the bench press at the Buffalo Pro Day.

After the Buffalo Pro Day, Sokoli had taken team visits with the Indianapolis Colts, New York Giants, New York Jets and Seattle Seahawks, all of which had interest in Sokoli on Day Three of the NFL Draft.

Through his travels from visit to visit, Sokoli said he thought Seattle was his best experience.

“I fell in love with the city,” Sokoli said. “Seattle was very, very nice. I fell in love with the stadium, they have an awesome fan base, like many other NFL teams do, and I like the community. As the process continued, I always thought that Seattle and I would be an awesome fit.”

Sokoli is 13th player out of Buffalo to be drafted – the eighth since the Bulls joined the FBS. It is the third straight year the Bulls have had a played drafted, with former defensive end Steven Means being drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fifth round in 2013 and former linebacker Khalil Mack being drafted fifth overall by the Oakland Raiders last year. Mack finished third in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting with 76 tackles, four sacks and one forced fumble.

Sokoli wasn’t the only Bull to find an NFL home this weekend, as former Bulls offensive linemen Jake Silas, Trevor Sales and Andre Davis received minicamp invites as undrafted free agents with the Green Bay Packers, Cleveland Browns and New York Jets respectively.

Sokoli said he hasn’t thought much about his goals for his rookie season yet, but plans to take things “day-to-day” and work as hard as he can.

“My goal is simple: become the best offensive lineman I can be and help the team,” Sokoli said. “That’s all I want to do.”

Quentin Haynes is a sports editor and can be reached at sports@ubspectrum.com


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