Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan NFL hopeful Edmund Kugbila poses for a portrait while training for the upcoming NFL Combine at the Goldin Athletic Training Association training facility in Duluth Thursday. Kugbila a Central Gwinnett grad who just finished playing at Valdosta State is a 6-foot-5, 347-pound offensive lineman.
Edmund Kugbila still remembers the day he was pulled out of school in his native country of Ghana.
His parents Cletus and Lucy had won a visa lottery that allowed their family to move to the United States.
"They wanted to give me and my brother a better opportunity and a better chance to do something with our lives," Kugbila said.
The 2009 Central Gwinnett grad is getting that chance this month. Kugbila was selected to participate in the NFL Combine in Indianapolis on Feb. 20-26. That's where more than 300 of the best college football players will be evaluated for April's NFL Draft. Essentially, it's like applying for a job.
"It's just like a job interview," Kugbila said. "I've been waiting for this my whole life. You're applying for your dream job."
The 6-foot-5, 320-pound Kugbila was an All-American offensive lineman at Valdosta State. After helping the Blazers to the Division II national championship in December, Kugbila moved home in January. He's spent the last six weeks training at GATA in Duluth with trainer Ryan Goldin.
A typical day includes Kugbila arriving at 7 a.m. for morning treatment and stretching, then going through speed and agility drills, weightlifting and position drills in the afternoon. He usually leaves at 4 p.m. and will do that six days a week.
"It's like a 9 to 5 work day," he said.
The rigorous training has helped Kugbila, who was listed during the season at 347 pounds, to drop 30 pounds in the last month.
"I've changed my body completely," Kugbila said. "I feel stronger and faster."
Kugbila will find out where he stands among draft hopefuls next week at the combine. He's rated the No. 22 offensive guard by CBS Sports right now.
"I'm not really paying much attention to it," he said.
That could change with a strong performance at the combine, which includes the 225-pound bench press test, shuttle drill, three-cone drill and position drills.
Kugbila will have a second audition at his Pro Day on March 18 at Valdosta State where he'll go through many of the same drills in front of NFL scouts.
He'll then wait for his name to hopefully be called during the NFL draft on April 25-27.
"I've always said since the eighth grade I wanted to play in the NFL," Kugbila said.
Kugbila and his family moved to the U.S. in 2000 when he was 10 years old. His younger brother Romauld, an Archer grad, is a freshman on the West Georgia football team. Edmund began playing football in the seventh grade, but wasn't sure about the sport initially.
"The first year I didn't like it. The next year I loved it," Kugbila said.
Kugbila played for three different head coaches at Central Gwinnett and with his 6-foot-5, 360-pound size he drew the attention of college recruiters. Alabama, Georgia, Vanderbilt and Florida showed interest in him, but a low SAT score prevented him from academically qualifying for a Division I school.
He signed with Division II power Valdosta State and made an immediate impact once he stepped on campus. He played in every game as a freshman and started 10 as a sophomore at offensive tackle. He moved to guard as a junior to help fill a void on the offensive line and was named all-conference and third team All-American. Kugbila finished his college career by helping Valdosta claim the national championship last season.
Despite not playing at a major Division I school, Kugbila doesn't think that will hurt him in the draft.
"At the end of the day, they want to know if you can play football," Kugbila said. "I came from a team that won the national championship. I don't think it hurts me."
Now with his college career behind him, Kugbila is trying to extend his football playing days in the NFL.
"After putting in so much hard work, might as well try to take a chance and get to the NFL," Kugbila said.