The Times examines the best prospects ahead of the NFL draft from April 23-25.
The 300 pound heavyweight crouched and stuck three fingers into the grass. Neville Gallimore didn’t really expect to get to this point. Son of Jamaican farmers, who grew up in Canada, his love for football came by accident at the age of 11. But now he was there, at the dawn of the NFL, preparing for a 40-meter shot, ready to show the world football he belonged to.
“If you told me six or seven years ago,” said Gallimore, “I would have said you were crazy.”
Indeed, he had taken a stranger path than most NFL players. In a country where regular four-a-side football is rare at the high school level, the Ottawa native found himself at the Canada Prep Academy, 20 minutes from the border, hoping to get the attention of the programs American college football. It didn’t last long, with 30 schools offering scholarships.
Five years later, the Oklahoma product exploded out of position in Indianapolis. This time, as he rushed to the finish line, it took only 4.79 seconds for 32 NFL teams to notice.
At 304 pounds, it was an almost unprecedented pace for a 40-yard sprint. In the 15 years since the NFL started tracking these rates, only two other players pushing 300 pounds have registered 40 times faster.
For Gallimore, it was not even the fastest time he had known.
In Oklahoma, stories of his strength and athleticism bordered on myth. As an elder, he compressed 500 pounds, cleaned 400 and squatted 800, while performing a record 4.76 40 that coaches could hardly believe. It’s no exaggeration to say that Gallimore was one of the most bizarre players in college football last season.
When entering the project, the same superlatives apply. His engine is relentless, coupled with elite pursuit skills with which, more than once, he has chased runners backwards over 20 meters. His hands are violent and powerful, making him a force in the indoor racing game.
But it’s his unusual speed, while pushing 300 pounds, that defines his game. It’s not often you can say that about a defensive tackle, but Gallimore moves like a linebacker in space and accelerates like an edge rusher facing a defender. This combination was enough to force most Big 12 teams to double it and sometimes even triple it a season ago.
His raw athletics certainly served him well for four years in Oklahoma, where he had 147 tackles and 8½ sacks in total in four seasons. At the NFL level, it will take more than speed and strength to have the same impact.
The fact that a Canadian defensive tackle could make the slightest impression in the NFL is still a bit of a shock for Gallimore.
“It’s like it doesn’t make sense,” said Gallimore. “It’s like, how? What’s going on? But what I tell the others is that if you really like this game and you’re really passionate … you’d be surprised how dreams can unfold. “
He hopes his story can help others outside the United States to fight for their own future in football. Of course, it doesn’t hurt if they are extremely fast for their size.
“I just hope the game evolves in the sense that coaches and scouts are ready to go wherever they need to go to find the talent,” said Gallimore. “I speak for children who dream and who grow up watching football, who grow up with this passion and who have this talent and this work ethic. That if you want to play, you will not have to scramble to find yourself, they will come to find you. “