BIRMINGHAM — Kadeem Telfort's initial reaction to not receiving an invitation to the NFL Draft combine melted away quickly. He instead looked at what he deemed to be the positive parts of his draft quest.
He played in the East-West Shrine Game. He will get a chance to test in front of NFL scouts on Wednesday at UAB's Pro Day. He's had the opportunity to train at Barwis Facility in Deerfield Beach, Florida.
The 6-foot-7, 319-pound offensive tackle didn't waste time worrying about what he wasn't able to do in this process.
"At the moment it (bothered me), but when I looked at the whole board, honestly, it really didn't bother me," Telfort said. "I told people there are no solidified draft picks. It's up for grabs for anybody. With me not being invited, I didn't take it personal. I have a Pro Day to go to. I just look at the good out of this process. I was able to the East-West Shrine Bowl. I get to partake in Pro Day. I did everything else but (the combine), so I'm not going to let that make me feel some type of way."
Telfort, who grew up in South Florida, said he's been dreaming of this process since he began taking football seriously in high school. His dream was derailed, at least temporarily, when he was one of nine University of Florida football players suspended from the team for involvement in a credit card fraud scheme. He spent a season at Garden City Community College before transferring to Highland Community College. He was ineligible to play at his second junior college stop because he transferred to a school in the same conference.
UAB was the only school to give him a chance. Telfort made the most of the opportunity. He was a key part of the Conference USA championship team in 2020, an honorable mention All-C-USA selection in 2021 and a first-team all-conference selection this past season. He also became the first member of his family to earn a college degree.
Now, it's time to chase the dream.
"I was more anxious back (when he began college) because I was really trying to get there quicker," Telfort said. "With the setback and everything, it feels like a blessing."
The East-West Shrine Game appearance gave him an opportunity to perform in front of NFL scouts during practices and in the game. It also allowed him to gain some versatility.
"Before the all-star game, I'd never played right tackle," said Telfort, who started 28 games at left tackle at UAB. "When I showed up, they told me to go to right tackle. At first, it was kind of a challenge, but I embraced it and worked on it while I was in my hotel room."
At times, he asked UAB teammate Starling Thomas, a 5-foot-9 cornerback, who has been timed at under 4.3 in the 40-yard dash, to work against him at defensive end. That helped him make quick decisions while adapting to the new position.
Since then, his time is spent at the Barwis facility, training to get ready for the Pro Day and what comes after. It's a daily routine that begins at 7 a.m. and generally concludes in the early evening. It includes time in the training room, biometric training, strength training, mental conditioning, position-specific drills and technique work and fine-tuning performance in the combine drills. It also includes nutrition.
"I've seen myself improve more on the physique side," said Telfort, who added he's put on six or seven pounds of muscle. "With me eating more and all the like protein and nutrition, I was able to level my body out and kind of like slim down and put on muscle at the same time."
He also learned how to adjust from the regimented life as a college athlete.
"The process is a little different," Telfort said. "I really had to get used to having a lot of free time. Being in college, you'd go from workouts to study hall, from study hall back to the facility. There it's like you work out, and after you're done, you just have time on your own. I kind of picked up some things, like me and my little sister we started up reading (the same) book and talking about it. It's just finding any little thing I could do to spend time."
On Wednesday, Telfort will put his training to work in front of the scouts.
"I'm just happy to partake in this opportunity," Telfort said. "I don't really have any (specific) goals. I'm coming to dominate."
No matter what happens during the NFL draft, Telfort is already a first-round draft choice. He was the first player selected by the Birmingham Stallions in the 2023 USFL draft.
"With the USFL, it just really let me know that I'm being noticed," said Telfort, the seventh overall pick. "I kind of took it and embraced it because I embrace everything – good, bad or ugly. It was a blessing that someone recognized me. I felt like that kind of gave me a little bit of leverage. So, if I wasn't on any NFL radar, now they'll figure out who Kadeem Telfort is now."
However, he was surprised by the pick.
"It was crazy because I was working out, and then we were all eating," Telfort said. "One of the guys I was training with — [Michigan State offensive tackle Jarrett Horst] went first overall. When he got drafted, I was like, 'Congrats, man.' He was kind of down at first, but I let him know it was an opportunity because some people back home are really waiting on that opportunity. A (few) picks went down, and I just saw my Twitter blowing up. I was like, "Oh, I even got drafted.' They texted me and let me know how everything worked. I just let them know I'm thankful."
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