Elhadji Ndiaye: The 2014 NFL Draft’s Super Sleeper (Video)

By: Shaun DePasquale (@ShaunDoesDraft)

Elhadji Ndiaye
Defensive End/Outside Linebacker
University of Nebraska-Kearney
6’5, 255 pounds
2013 statistics: 46 tackles (26 solo) , 9.5 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
40 yard dash: 4.48

One of the best kept secrets in the 2014 NFL Draft is a severely little-known hybrid 6’5, 255 pound combo defensive end/outside linebacker prospect named Elhadji Ndiaye. Ndiaye is a native of Senegal, who played soccer growing up. Football? It was an afterthought. That is, until his cousin, former NFL defensive lineman Ogemdi Nwagbuo, saw the potential in Elhadji, and took the youngster under his wing. Ogemdi, a solid vested NFL veteran of the Giants, Chargers, Panthers & Lions, convinced Ndiaye that he had a world of potential in the sport of football, and pushed him to give it a try.

“From the start, Ogemdi would come down and meet with me, provide me with all the equipment I needed and we would go out and work on fundamentals and technique. Even while he was in the NFL, he took the time to mentor me and teach me, and supplied anything I needed.” said Ndiaye.

Former Arizona Wildcats Head Coach Mike Stoops saw the same early potential, and offered a walk-on spot with a chance to earn a scholarship. But when Stoops was eventually fired, it left Elhadji in limbo.

“I really didn’t have a backup school or anywhere else to go. I bided my time playing basketball at prep school (Grossmont College in San Diego, CA), and waited for the right opportunity. A close friend of mine recommended Nebraska-Kearney, and it felt like the right fit. The rest is history.”

The raw prospect that only oozed with potential was brought along slowly. Last year, his junior season and first in the sport of football, he was only a reserve and special teams player- only logging 5 tackles on the year.

This season, as a senior, Ndiaye was unleashed on the world. He busted loose with 46 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 7 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. Playing with no backup, and with an offense that had a tendency to keep the defense on the field, Elhadji displayed incredible endurance just finishing a game at times. That part about being one of the best kept secrets of the 2014 NFL draft class? Very quietly, Ndiaye has met with scouts from at least 20 NFL teams. It is truly a remarkable turnaround for a young man of tremendously high character, whom came from such humble beginnings.

“I always had to work for everything I’ve ever had, and I learned from my father to have a strong work ethic. Growing up that man did everything he could to keep us fed and worked any job he had to to provide for his family. There have been some dark times. I was homeless for a period of time between 2010 & 2011, and last year I couldn’t even afford a plane ticket home for the holidays. I stayed on campus and worked with the track team instead.”

Worked with the track team during holiday break? Seriously? Yes. This is a guy that spent this past summer sharpening his skills and developing his body into that of an elite pass rusher. He swam, boxed with Carolina Panthers RB Mike Tolbert, ran wind sprintspracticed technique with his good friend, Detroit Lions 1st round draft pick Ziggy Ansah, ran hills, and even did yoga.

“Everything in me was focused on being the best player I could be this season. I was determined, and only surrounded myself with the best people.”

The results, some of which you can see on this very article, speaks for itself. Ndiaye, who was timed as low as 4.37 in the 40 yard dash over the summer by the school’s track coach, displays elite explosion at the snap, has excellent speed in pursuit of the ballcarrier, and has an advanced understanding of how to use his hands to shed blockers. Ndiaye is the type of prospect that leaves you no doubt as to his ability to play at the next level. He is going to be an excellent addition to a team’s core pass rush. With the size to play with his hand in the dirt, and the athleticism and burst to play standup LB, Elhadji figures to have defensive coordinators salivating at the possibilities. While that may cause some readers to wrinkle their nose as an under-the-radar prospect from the small school ranks, this writer is calling his shot. Elhadji Ndiaye will be playing on Sundays, for a long time.

“Give me 2 years, and not only will I develop as a player, I feel I’ll be a Pro Bowler. There is nothing I can’t do, or learn how to do. I have a family to provide for, and to make proud of me. I won’t be denied, and I think I’ve shown that in a short period of time. If someone overlooks me, they’re making a big mistake.”

No argument here.

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