Bulls host annual pro day at Ralph Wilson Stadium
For senior OLB, exposure Means chance of a lifetime
Senior defensive end Steven Means worked out alongside six other football players for 21 scouts from 18 NFL teams at UB's annual pro day in Orchard Park. Alexa Strudler /// The Spectrum
Former UB basketball player Byron Mulkey works out for NFL scouts at Tuesday's pro day inside the Buffalo Bills' practice facility. Mulkey is training to become a defensive back. Alexa Strudler /// The Spectrum
Western New York native Steven Means grew up a Buffalo Bills fan. After four years on the gridiron for the University at Buffalo Bulls, Means has a chance to achieve his dream of reaching the NFL.
On Tuesday afternoon, the senior flaunted his athletic prowess in front of 18 NFL teams in the Bills' practice facility. Twenty-one scouts watched, took notes and recorded iPad videos as Means worked out alongside seven other participants: fellow UB seniors Gokhan Ozkan and Willie Moseley, former UB punter Jacob Schum, former UB basketball player Byron Mulkey, Albany's Jon Morgan, Buffalo State's Pasquale Vacchio and Alfred University's Jon Jackson.
Ten NFL teams made the trip to Buffalo last year for the annual pro day. Means said the eight-team increase says a lot about UB's football program.
"It says people are looking now," said Means, who had 77 tackles, 6.5 sacks and three blocked kicks in his final year. "They aren't treating us as a joke. This program is getting bigger and bigger ... Confidence is going to be built in this program."
Three UB alumni - James Starks (Green Bay), Trevor Scott (New England) and Josh Thomas (Carolina) - are currently in the NFL, and a handful are between teams. Head coach Jeff Quinn said his team's tough 2012 schedule helped this year's players get exposure.
"We play great competition, the Georgias, UConns and Pitts," he said. "We're playing against some of the best talent in the country, and our kids have really proven they can handle their own."
Means and Moseley have been preparing for the draft at Proformance Sports Training in the Northtown Center (former Pepsi Center) across from North Campus.
Means, a freak athlete who starred in track and field and basketball at the local Grover Cleveland High School (now International Prep), is a rare physical specimen. At 6-foot-4, 257 pounds, Means fits the mold for an ideal outside linebacker.
He said scouts have been impressed with how well he moves; Means ran an estimated 4.6-second 40-yard dash, though he was shooting for a 4.58. He also put up over 20 reps on the bench press (225 pounds).
"The process is similar to coming from high school to college," Means said. "A lot of coaches call, but it's a lot better because it's the NFL."
Means said he always thinks he can do better, but the scouts seemed pleased with his pro-day performance.
"As far as the reactions from the scouts, I feel like I did pretty good," he said. "Everybody's saying: 'Good job, good energy, good hustle out there, everything's good.'"
Ozkan, an offensive lineman, ran a 5.3 40, and Moseley, who scouts are pegging as an inside linebacker, sprinted in at 4.7. Ozkan, who has lost 10 pounds since the end of the season and is "feeling a whole lot leaner," did 19 reps on the bench press; Moseley did 16.
Mulkey owns one of the most interesting storylines entering the NFL Draft. He was a point guard at UB from 2006-11, averaging 13.1 points, 4.5 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game as a senior. But football is his true love.
Mulkey played quarterback and free safety at local Niagara-Wheatfield High School, and he earned a tryout with the Bills last year. He didn't make the squad, but he left inspired.
"To be honest, that's why, from that point to where we are now, I've continued to stay at it," said Mulkey, who earned his Master's degree in higher education administration at UB and now works as an academic mentor at Georgia State. "Leaving the camp, I had a good feeling and it did a great deal for my confidence."
Mulkey has been training to get into the NFL ever since. So have his football abilities overtaken his basketball aptitude? He said right now, it's not even close.
"I got in the gym to stay loose yesterday," he laughed, adding that he live-streamed the Bulls' upset of No. 24 Akron on Saturday. "Long story short, I made my last shot before I left the gym. We won't worry about the rest."
He isn't limiting his possibilities to just the NFL, though. Mulkey said he would be interested in any offers from Arena Football League or Canadian Football League teams, too.
"At this point, I feel that there's only a certain window when you can actually get out here and compete and your body's able to do what it can do," Mulkey said. "As long as I can compete, I'm all for it."
After UB's 2012 pro day, wide receiver Marcus Rivers received increased NFL attention and eventually signed as an undrafted free agent with the Green Bay Packers, but he did not make the team. Quinn said two Bulls who graduated last year are playing arena football: safety Josh Copeland and wide receiver Ed Young.
The 2013 NFL Draft will run from April 25-27.
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