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Ducey: NFL goal now within reach for Gilkey

Alex Helmbrecht
Gilkey prepares for NFL

Garrett Gilkey was miserable Monday morning, sitting in the icy tub at the IMG Academy for NFL prospects in Florida.

“It’s awful. It’s absolutely awful,” the former Chadron State offensive lineman said.

Gilkey was alternating between three freezing minutes and three minutes in 105-degree water as he recovered from one of several customized workouts to prepare him for the NFL combine starting Feb. 20 in Indianapolis.

His day started with speed and explosiveness training at 6:30 a.m., followed by position drills with an offensive line coach. After his icy dips, some massage therapy and lunch, he switched to lifting and then vision training. The intensive program was scheduled to end around 7.

The icy water was torture, but part of a routine that’s paying off for Gilkey, a 6-foot-7, 320-pound lineman from Sandwich, Ill., who can bench press 500 pounds.

“I definitely feel more explosive and a lot quicker since I’ve been here the last two weeks,” said Gilkey, who in high school played for Chadron State great Don Beebe at Aurora Christian.

Gilkey won’t know exactly how much he’s improved until a mock combine on Thursday.

He’s projected as a mid- to late-round draft pick, he said, after 27 NFL scouts visited Chadron to see him play for the Eagles, who went 9-3 and made the Division II playoffs.

Several teams have told him they hope he’s still available in the fourth and fifth rounds. They like the flexibility in his hips, how he finishes plays, his aggressiveness, his technique and his explosiveness.

“It’s been pretty exciting,” Gilkey said.

Gilkey has signed with agent Jason Chayut of Sportstars Inc., who set him up at the IMG facility. The resources have amazed Gilkey. He’s working with a nutritionist, a dietician, you name it, to get him ready to take the next step.

He may take a break if he gets the chance to play in the Senior Bowl, but otherwise will stay in Florida to work out and avoid a possible injury by playing in any other all-star games. He’s been selected as an alternate for the Senior Bowl on Jan. 26 in Mobile, Ala.

He doesn’t want anything to derail what has long been an unspoken goal. It’s become more real the past few years, when his two-time All-RMAC performances started attracting attention.

“I kind of always believed and knew I was going to go to the NFL,” he said.

He’s proud of his Chadron State roots in an arena where he’s surrounded by big-school talent. He wants to take advantage of every resource and every opportunity, knowing there aren’t many athletes from small colleges across Nebraska who are getting the same chance.

“It’s very encouraging and motivating for me,” Gilkey said. “I’m very fortunate. I find myself using that word lately.”