Safety George Iloka from Boise state is one of fast rising players on draftboard. The tall and rangy safety has improved his stock tremendously with impressive performances at the Senior Bowl and at the combine.
I met up with Iloka to talk about his great years at Boise state and his prospects of being an NFL player.
George Iloka grew up in Houston, Texas where he learned the traits of football and was a standout athlete and captain at Kempner high school. Iloka decided to take an offer from Boise state in Idaho, far away from home. But he quickly adapted, became a four year starter and earned many accolades as a student athlete.
He also became part of the winningest senior class in NCAA history and together with his teammates proved that Boise state is a programme to be reckoned with. Boise state has become a national powerhouse and it’s because of the tremendous recruiting that has brought a plethora of talent to the school and the coaching by coach Eriksen that has allowed that talent to flourish.
I asked him about his time at the Seniorbowl and how rewarding it was to be here.
“The opportunity to play at the Seniorbowl meant a lot to me, to be able to compete and show my talents. It’s rewarding in a sense that all the work I’ve put in growing up is paying off. It goes to show that all the extra weights I have lifted and the extra gassers I have ran, everything that I have done in my spare time has been worth it. That’s definitely rewarding.”
Like stated, George Iloka grew up in hot and sunny Texas, but he decided to go with a programme far away from home and in one of the colder states in the US. I asked him how hard the transition was.
“It actually wasn’t that hard. I chose that school because of all the games they were winning and being away from home gave me an opportunity to focus on the more important things in life, like getting a college degree and being able to concentrate on football. I just looked at Boise as being a four to five year investment that could affect the rest of my life, whether is was a degree or football. The only thing that was hard was getting used to the weather. It was cold.”
So you received a degree?
“Yes, I graduated in december. So I’ve accomplished one of my goals already. I majored in communications and my GPA was a 3.0.”
Listening to the young man, gave me a feeling that he deserved every bit of that grade and that he picked the right education. Iloka is sharp, whitty and quick with his answers who seem to be on mark every time. With some good coaching, he can grow into a great leader for an NFL team.
I asked the 6’4 safety what skills he possesses and what coaches have told him to improve upon.
“I’m big, strong and fast and can cover a lot of ground. I believe I’m versatile as a player and can do many different things and fit in all kinds of schemes. I’ll do whatever the coaches ask me to do. I definitely need to work on my angles. Making sure I break correctly, towards where the offensive player’s going instead of where he is.”
Some buzz has been made in the media that the Texas kid should have to move to weakside linebacker instead of safety. Have teams spoken to him about this?
“No, none what so ever. Teams view me as a safety and I believe I have the skill set to be succesful at my position at the next level. I just need to keep working on my craft and better myself as a player as much as I can.”
At the Seniorbowl and the combine Iloka proved that he has all the tools to become a safety in the NFL. I believe that everybody that put on the tape on him could have seen that too. The safety played some games at cornerback during his time for the Broncos as well and was more than able to hold his own.
The youngman had seven interceptions going into his senior season, but didn’t intercept a pass in his senior year. Did he believe teams went away from him?
“That’s definitely what happened. Teams threw on me about 10 times the entire year and completed maybe three. But I knew coming in at the Seniorbowl I would get chances to make plays and I did. It’s all about grabbing the opportunity when it presented itself. I intercepted a couple of passes and believe I proved to the coaches and scouts alike that I can be in the right spot and make plays on the ball. That I have the ballskills necessary to compete at the next level.
The 2011 Boise state Seniorclass became the winngiest class in NCAA history. There were a whopping five players invited to the Seniorbowl and they have 7-8 draftable players. I asked what that meant to him.
“It means so much. Seeing where Boise has come from and being able to help my school grow into a national powerhouse. And us being here proves that Boise is producing good athletes. They’re taking these two and three star athletes and developing them into elite athletes. And also, being here with these other four guys is really fun. We were on the same team and actually had one more game with each other. So the Seniorbowl was our last game as teammates”
I asked him how Rivals had ranked him and how he feels about that.
“I believe I was a two star athlete. Think I proved them wrong. I wish I could remember the name of the guy that wrote the rapport. I mean, I’m not bitter about it one bit. Rivals is not a college programme. It’s just a bunch of guys that put their opinion out there. Once you go to college, everybody is a no star athlete. It’s what you make of it. Because it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish that matters. And so far I’ve come further than others that were ranked much higher than I was.”
I went back and checked the 2008 rankings and Iloka actually was a two star athlete. It’s exhibit A, that scouting is not a science and never will be waterproof. Because football is so much more than just putting together a team of high ranked athletes. It’s about putting together a group of players that want it more than all the others. I will stand pat to the fact that it’s the intangibles that define a player’s success. And George Iloka has all the makings of a great player because of his intensity, work ethic and self-confidence. All things that can not be put into stats. It’s proven on the gridiron.
I asked him where he sees himself in ten years.
“On a NFL team, with two superbowl rings in my pocket and working on my third.”
It’s that confidence that will make teams put him in high regard in the interview process and that will instill belief in his future teammates that the Boise State Bronco can and will get it done.
To finish up, I asked him what the best game was he participated in.
“Definitely the Fiësta Bowl in my sophomore year when we played TCU. We ended up beating them 17-10 and it was the first major game I played in and I think I did good. I made a lot of tackles and just made plays all over the field. But most importantly, we won as a team. It’s an incredible memory.”
If George Iloka keeps improving like he has and keeps that great work ethic, I can guarantee him he will play in games that will not only rival the 2009 Bowl game against TCU, but surpass it by far. Iloka has all the makings of a second round pick and he’ll be able to contribute to any team immediately. Not only because of his intense play at safety, but also because he has all the tools to be a great special team player from the get go. Not too shabby for a two star athlete. Not too shabby at all, mister Iloka.
Sam Alzahawi is a writer for “USA Sports” in the Netherlands. A former professional football player himself, he now covers all of the NFL and College Football for the “USA Sports” publication. Follow him on twitter @SamAlzahawi.