EARTH CITY, Mo. – Keshaun Malone’s confidence is evident in the tone of his voice and his choice of words. Graduating from Bacone College and becoming one of the NAIA’s best defensive linemen during his time playing for the Warriors has prepared him to take on just about anything.
That includes trying to become one of only 53 men who will wear the St. Louis Rams’ jersey in National Football League games this season.
“I think everyone who plays football at the collegiate level wants to get here, no matter if you’re playing in [NCAA] Division I, Division II, Division III or the NAIA. Working hard at Bacone put me in this position,” Malone stated.
The former Central States Football League Defensive Player of the Year knows that the challenge ahead of him is a big one. The reality is that most undrafted rookie free agents don’t make the final 53-man rosters of the teams which originally signed them, if with any NFL team at all.
“The game is a lot faster [than that of the NAIA]. The tempo is much quicker. You have to study your playbook and your competition 24/7,” Malone commented.
Malone doesn’t think that the odds should deter anyone who wants to play football professionally, however, and is living proof that playing in the NAIA can lead to an opportunity to do exactly that.
“If this is your dream, you should go for it. No matter what level of college football you are playing at, there are scouts everywhere all the time. They are looking for players who can play this game at this level no matter where they are. If you are willing to do the work, you can make it in this league,” Malone said.
The first NFL league-wide roster limits are imposed on Sept. 1 at 4 p.m. EDT, when all NFL teams’ rosters cannot exceed 75 players. The NAIA will be following the progress of Malone and Morningside (Iowa) graduate Brandon Wegher with the Carolina Panthers as both try to make it onto NFL rosters for the upcoming season.