DeKALB – Sean Folliard will need to overcome some tall odds if he hopes to achieve his dream of playing in the NFL.
Yet the Northern Illinois University senior and former Prairie Ridge standout isn't stressing out with the NFL draft just weeks away.
“I’m going to leave it all out there,” Folliard said Friday after working out in front scouts from 18 NFL teams at NIU's Pro Day in DeKalb.
“Whatever God has planned for me, I’m putting it in His hands. I’m not going to worry. I’m not going to stress.”
The 23-year-old linebacker developed into one of NIU's most consistent defenders in two seasons as a full-time starter.
He finished his senior season tied for the team lead with 81 total tackles to go along with six tackles for loss and a pair of sacks. In 2015, as a junior, Folliard finished fourth on the team with 84 tackles and led the Huskies with 8 1/2 tackles for loss.
Although the productivity stands out on paper, Folliard will have show teams he's large enough to play at the next level.
Folliard, who weighed in at 225 pounds, would be small for an NFL linebacker; however, he said he expects to add weight before rookie minicamp in May.
Folliard has displayed the ability to adapt and thrive at the next level before.
At Prairie Ridge, Folliard starred for the Wolves at safety, where he played at around 200 pounds. Despite being undersized at the time, he managed to catch the eye of NIU defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Kevin Kane.
“When I watched his tape, I knew he could run, and I knew he was athletic,” Kane said. “I went to [Prairie Ridge] and watched him run and do some things. I knew right away I wanted him as a linebacker.”
Folliard pursued early graduation at Prairie Ridge and enrolled at NIU a semester early to get a jump on his college football career. He soon found the needed weight to play at the Division-I level, but not quite in the fashion he anticpated.
“First week on campus I discovered the cafeteria,” Folliard said. “I never had that all-you-can-eat opportunity before. The weight wasn’t hard for me. It was gaining good that was hard. I got fat that first semester. I got up to 230 pretty quick.”
Folliard was in better shape by the fall semester and immediately started to make an impact on the field for the Huskies, playing in 11 games on special teams and as a reserve linebacker.
“He’s an instinctive guy, and he’s smart on top of it,” Kane said. “He knows where he’s supposed to be. He knows where everyone else is supposed to be. That helps him out a lot and allows him to go play. A smart player is a fast player.”
Those instincts led to an expanded role as a sophomore in 2014, culiminating in a starting role for the Mid-American Conference Championship Game victory against Bowling Green. Folliard went on to start his final 28 games for the Huskies.
Now he's hoping to take a similar path to the NFL.
“I’m going to look for any opportunity on special teams and at linebacker,” Folliard said. “Whatever teams ask me to do, I’m going to do it.”