In the annals of professional football, some of the sport’s more notable tight ends came from a limited college football background, and instead came from basketball.
Antonio Gates played basketball at Kent State before turning in a 16-year career with the Chargers, Jimmy Graham played just one season at Miami after spending four seasons on the Hurricanes’ basketball team and has been in the NFL since 2010, and Marcus Pollard didn’t play any college football before signing with the Colts and enjoying a 13-year career in the league.
Now, former Youngstown State hooper Naz Bohannon hopes to accomplish the same.
Bohannon, who spent four years with YSU before playing last season at Clemson as a graduate transfer, entered his name into the NFL Draft and has been training in the meantime.
“The opportunity kind of presented itself as I was still in (basketball) season,” explained Bohannon, who scored 1,236 points and snagged 990 rebounds in the red and white. “I’ve been real close to a basketball agent I’ve been talking to over the past couple of years that I met through a trainer who I was actually working out with in Youngstown. He reached out to me saying he had a buddy who was a football agent that was looking for guys who fit a certain profile and could make the transition over to football if need be.”
Though he excelled as a basketball player, Bohannon is no stranger to the gridiron. In high school, Bohannon played as a linebacker, defensive end and tight end at Lorain.
So, Bohannon decided to go for it, but not before finishing his season with Clemson. The Tigers finished 17-16 after getting knocked out of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament by eventual champion Virginia Tech. Over the course of the season, Bohannon averaged 5.7 points per game and played about 21 minutes per contest.
“We all talked about what was next as far as an opportunity presenting itself and how to prepare me to be able to be ready for that opportunity when it did come,” he said.
Not long after the basketball season ended, Bohannon went to Clemson’s Pro Day, where his height and weight were measured and he “showed up … just to show face, kind of create a buzz, let a couple teams know what it was we were doing and what it was we’re trying to pursue.”
There’s been some buzz, Bohannon said, and some teams have taken notice and expressed interest.
Now, he’s reshaping his body to put back on some weight. He checked in at 6-foot-6, 232 pounds at Clemson, but has targeted getting back to about 265.
“I don’t have to get to 265 tomorrow — that’s unrealistic — but something I could compete at,” noted Bohannon, who earned his degree in business administration at YSU and studied athletic leadership at Clemson.
Bohannon also is focusing on producing great drill times because he doesn’t have film from college like his peers.
The hope is to get drafted, but if that doesn’t happen, Bohannon explained he would target rookie minicamps next.
“It’s an opportunity that way to really get in front of some guys and show what it is I can do,” Bohannon added.
As he focuses on the on-field stuff, Bohannon’s agent is taking care of things behind the scenes — contacting teams and drawing interest. The pair talk a couple times each week about what to go about doing next.
“He made a promise to me that as hard as I work physically, he’ll work in the offices with the scouts and getting things done,” Bohannon said. “He has a lot of connections and a great network, so he’s going to try to get in touch with somebody from all 32 teams to try to make the best way possible for it to make sense and make it happen for me.”