Emeke Egbule replays the moment over and over in his head.
With the (insert number) pick in the 2019 NFL draft, the (insert team) select Emeke Egbule, linebacker, University of Houston.
“I think about it every day,” Egbule said, waiting hopefully to hear his name among the 254 picks in the three-day NFL draft that runs Thursday through Saturday in Nashville, Tenn. “Even when I’m driving or just watching a movie. I just play it out in my head. Wondering, what team is it going to be? What round is it going to be? How am I going to react? It’s all exciting, and I’m anxious.”
A full-time starter at linebacker in his final two seasons with the Cougars, Egbule has been rising on draft boards after strong performances at the NFL scouting combine and UH’s pro day. Some mock drafts have Egbule taken as early as the fifth round.
“I don’t know what to expect,” he said. “Anything can happen.
“I’m hoping for the best. Out of all the teams I’ve talked to, I don’t know where I would even go. I know I could fit into almost any team I have been talking to.”
Egbule had meetings or private workouts with the Texans, Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs. Most of the teams expressing interest want to move the 6-2, 240-pound Egbule inside, though a few discussed using him as an edge rusher. Like most third-day picks, Egbule knows his ticket to making an NFL roster will be on special teams.
“Linebacker, special teams, third down, fourth down, anything — just be a player,” Egbule said. “First year, you’ve got to make it on the team. You start on special teams and work your way up.”
A shot is all Egbule is asking for, part of a dream that goes back to his senior season at North Shore High School. After being used as a wide receiver and tight end as a sophomore and junior, Egbule shifted to defensive end for his final season. It was at that time, Egbule said, that he “fell in love with defense.”
“I knew I could make something out of this because it was fun,” he added. “I just thought to myself I would love to do this for a living as long as I can.”
One day in 2014, Ricky Logo, then the Cougars’ defensive line coach, showed up on the North Shore campus. An offer was soon to come, the first Egbule would receive.
“I didn’t know (coach Logo) was here for me,” Egbule said. “It turns out he was. I love Houston and wanted to stay home. Once he offered me, I was all in for it and excited because it was my first offer. Throughout college, that mindset just got stronger and stronger and built more confidence that I could do this.”
Egbule started the final 25 games of his college career, recording 69 tackles, 5½ tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions, four fumble recoveries, five pass breakups and two forced fumbles. One of his biggest moments came when, as a sophomore, he returned a fumble for a touchdown to beat Tulsa.
Egbule also left his mark during his first preseason camp, hitting a running back so hard during a drill that he bent and warped his facemask. The facemask is mounted on the wall outside the team auditorium.
Todd McShay, a draft analyst for ESPN, watched in person as Egbule had five tackles, one tackle for loss, one pass breakup and a quarterback hurry in a Week 2 victory over Arizona last season.
“Egbule is a player who has some versatility,” McShay said. “I think he’s going to be really good on special teams. I like his tape. He obviously has some physical limitations, but I think he’s going to wind up probably being a fifth-round pick. I think he’s going to hang around and continue to get better in the league.”
Egbule — along with draft-eligible former UH players Austin Robinson and Roman Brown — has a chance to continue a recent tradition of the school’s linebackers being taken in the draft or landing on a practice squad. In the last three years, Elandon Roberts (sixth round by the New England Patriots in 2016), Tyus Bowser (second round by Baltimore Ravens in 2017) and Matthew Adams (seventh round by the Indianapolis Colts in 2018) have been selected in the draft. Derrick Mathews, another North Shore product, went undrafted in 2015 but has spent time on practice squads with Washington, the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants.
“It’s an honor really,” Egbule said. “We’re just trying to carry on the tradition.”
Egbule plans to watch all three days of the draft. As it gets closer to when he may be selected, family and friends will join a watch party at his home.