University of Miami

Combine goals: Njoku wants a world record; Kaaya just wants a chance

Miami Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya carries his MVP trophy after the University of Miami defeats West Virginia Mountaineers at the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Miami Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya carries his MVP trophy after the University of Miami defeats West Virginia Mountaineers at the Russell Athletic Bowl. adiaz@miamiherald.com

Brad Kaaya doesn’t need to be the next Andrew Luck.

The University of Miami quarterback would be just fine as the next Dak Prescott.

Kaaya can’t help but hear the criticism he’s taken lately — of his game and of his decision to leave early.

He’s determined to change perceptions this week at the NFL Scouting Combine. But even if he doesn’t, he’ll be OK, so long as he ends up on a team.

Because a chance, in Kaaya’s mind, is all he needs. Like the one Prescott got in Dallas, despite falling to the fourth round of the 2016 draft.

“It just motivates you and it shows it doesn't matter what round you go, where you are,” Kaaya said. “All you need is just one opportunity. Dak came in, focused and he clearly got better from the time he left college up until when he got drafted, and even after the draft, he's been working. It just shows what believing in yourself can do. I believe in myself and I believe in my decision. I believe in myself every step of the way and I feel like I can make in impact wherever I end up.”

Kaaya, who is projected to go anywhere between Rounds 3 and 6, met with reporters Friday. By the time he leaves town, he will have visited with a slew of teams. And on Saturday, he’ll go through the on-field workouts, including the 40-yard dash.

Kaaya does have a friend along for the ride. UM’s David Njoku, who might just be the first tight end taken in April’s draft, is also in Indianapolis, and will also run, cut and catch on national television Saturday.

But the drill Njoku is anticipating the most? The broad jump.

“I think I’m gonna break a record tomorrow,” Njoku said Friday. “Broad jump relates to power, just standing and taking your body a certain amount of feet. That’s power.”

Here’s the thing: If Njoku jumps farther than 12 feet, 3 inches, he won’t just be breaking the Combine broad jump record. He’ll be breaking the world record. Connecticut cornerback Byron Jones set the mark in both with his 12-foot-3 leap in 2015.

Given Njoku’s vast athletic ability, it’s not out of the realm of possibility. He’s a likely first-round pick despite catching just 64 passes at the University of Miami. Yes, he’s raw, having playing just two years of collegiate football. But his upside is huge.

“I didn’t perfect anything,” Njoku said. “I’m trying to better myself in every aspect with blocking and even speed, strength, route running or my hands. I don’t think I did anything to perfect anything, so I’m still working. If I continue to work, that’ll take me a long way.”

Adam H. Beasley: 305-376-3565, @AdamHBeasley

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