Imarjaye Albury called transferring from West Virginia to FIU a “leap of faith.” Yet the 290-pound defensive tackle got a sense he would land gracefully even as a walk-on, with his most recent game more than a year in the past and his next game more than a year in the future.
From Day1 at FIU, Sandra and Lyndon Albury were there for their son. When he got his physical. When he got his pads. Each practice in his first training camp.
“Just having that support system, having it there every day, knowing I can have it there any time I want, that’s a wonderful feeling,” Albury said. “That’s a blessing.”
That was in 2013. This year, now on scholarship, he has started every game at defensive tackle, ably filling an anticipated hole in FIU’s defense. The only two seniors on last year’s defense that drew serious NFL scrutiny, Isame Faciane and Greg Hickman, occupied the defensive tackle spots for two seasons.
Those same two seasons saw Albury practice and not play at West Virginia as a freshman redshirt and do the same at FIU to comply with NCAA transfer rules.
“When I say ‘leap of faith,’ I didn’t know what to expect having to sit out another year,” Albury said. “I didn’t know how I was going to adjust to that. That was me becoming a man, having to sit out a whole year. That helped me grow in the system and get comfortable in the system. When I got the starting job in the spring, I knew I was ready.”
“When I stood at the tip of the tunnel right there (before the Aug.31 season opener), it was emotional,” he continued. “And when I ran all the way to the other end zone where we do our prayers, I almost shed a tear as I prayed to God. Just thanked Him for getting me this far. Well worth the wait.”
Albury’s most recent games had been in 2011 at Northwestern High. Ranked in the nation’s top 80 defensive linemen by two recruiting websites and rated at three stars by several, Albury’s college options teemed. He chose West Virginia.
“At the time, West Virginia had a system I felt comfortable in, had a good, experienced coaching staff I felt comfortable with,” Albury said.
Before Albury could settle in to Morgantown as an early enrollee in January 2012, the scene changed. Much of the staff, including defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel and defensive line coach Bill Kiralewich, joined former West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez at Arizona. Casteel’s 3-3-5 system went with him.
In addition to adjusting to a new staff and system, Albury said, “I was still immature, still a young kid. It was an uncomfortable situation for me at the time. It felt like coming home would be the best for me.”
After flirting with Alabama State to the point that the school announced Albury as a mid-year 2013 signee, he contacted FIU and new coach Ron Turner. Albury sent Turner game footage from Northwestern and practice footage from West Virginia.
Turner accepted Albury as a low-risk walk-on.
“Last year, he was on the scout team,” Turner said. “You could see he was going to be a good player. He’s stout inside, very competitive, good motor.”
The nomadic nature of modern college football and the homebody reputation of South Florida recruits would seem to benefit FIU. It has — on occasion.
“You’d be shocked at how many calls we get from guys wanting to come back,” Turner said.
What he found with Albury was just a guy who wanted to come home.
“More mature,” Albury said regarding how he has changed over the past two years. “I was always physically strong, but now I’m more mentally strong and emotionally strong. I feel like I can withstand anything anybody can throw at me mentally and emotionally.”