THE ITHACAN

Accuracy • Independence • Integrity
The Student News Site of Ithaca College

THE ITHACAN

The Student News Site of Ithaca College

THE ITHACAN

Support Us
$1375
$2000
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support The Ithacan's student journalists in their effort to keep the Ithaca College and wider Ithaca community informed. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Support Us
$1375
$2000
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support The Ithacan's student journalists in their effort to keep the Ithaca College and wider Ithaca community informed. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Q&A: Bombers’ defensive back makes pro day statement in journey to NFL draft

Graduate+student+defensive+back+Derek+Slywka+goes+down+low+to+wrap+up+Springfield+College+senior+running+back+Blane+Hart+on+Nov.+18%2C+2023.+Slywka+participated+in+the+University+of+Buffalo+pro+day+March+14+and+Syracuse+Universitys+on+March+18.
Nolan Saunders
Graduate student defensive back Derek Slywka goes down low to wrap up Springfield College senior running back Blane Hart on Nov. 18, 2023. Slywka participated in the University of Buffalo pro day March 14 and Syracuse University’s on March 18.

Since the end of the 2023 Ithaca College Bombers’ football season, All-American graduate student defensive back Derek Slywka has been training to get a shot in the National Football League. 

Slywka got his chance to show off to NFL scouts at two Division I pro days. Slywka participated in the University of Buffalo’s pro day on March 14 and Syracuse University’s pro day on March 18. Slywka is searching to be the first Ithaca College player to sign with an NFL team since kicker Sandor Szabo ’67 signed with the Atlanta Falcons in 1967. 

Senior staff writer Daniel King met with Slywka to discuss the journey to these pro days, how the workouts went, talking with scouts and what Slywka has taken from the process.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Daniel King: What was the process of getting you signed up for the [University of] Buffalo and the University of Syracuse Pro Day?

Derek Slywka: A lot of the credit goes to [head] coach [Michael] Toerper. He did a lot of the groundwork for this, reaching out to the pro liaison at both Buffalo and Syracuse and other schools as well. [Former Ithaca College defensive coordinator Trevor] Warner helped too, reaching out to scouts that he knows. Coach Toerper had a couple of connections to scouts and worked on gauging their interests and getting them to reach out to those schools.

DK: For a Division III player to be doing pro days, that’s pretty impressive. From your experience, is it common for players at this level to get the chance to show their skills?

DS: I don’t think it’s particularly common as it should be. There are a lot of talented D-III players who don’t get opportunities because it’s so hard to garner scouts’ interest and have them reach out on your behalf. Coaches also really have to have connections. I’m really lucky to have [coach Toerper] here at Ithaca. He has a lot of connections, having coached Division I and in different areas. That just really helps.

DK: What was the process like preparing for these two pro days to ensure you were in the best position to make a statement?

DS: It’s a testament to my middle brother [Kyle Slywka]. We worked out together basically the whole process. Isaac Hadac had helped with some of the stuff working out with him a few times. A lot of it was pulling stuff that we did at Ithaca in our strength and conditioning program. There’s a lot of stuff online [about] these programs that trainers do. So, working to find a six-day program putting it all together and then staying the course. I’m proud of how it went. I think it took a lot of discipline and of not looking ahead too far, and just taking it one day at a time. 

DK: Overall, how did the two days go? Did you find yourself more nervous for the first one at Buffalo? 

DS: Buffalo, for sure, the nerves were a little bit high, as it was my first time doing it. There were 16 scouts [from the National Football League] and seven [Canadian Football League] scouts. I performed well; I hit the numbers I wanted to hit in terms of my 40, broad [jump] and vertical. At Syracuse, I focused more on the agility drills and hit some really good numbers. So, all in all, I hit the numbers I wanted to hit and the defensive back drills went really well. I put myself in the best position to have talked to a lot of scouts after each pro day and I put myself in a position to at least keep the doors open and put the ball in their court.

DK: What was it like talking to the scouts at these events, whether CFL or NFL, and did they explain how the rest of the process will play out?

DS: I talked to around 13 to 14 NFL scouts. A lot of it involves conducting background interviews and getting to know me. Many of them are talking to Coach Toerper now, and after that process, they will watch and go into detail on my tape. One of the scouts said I would be considered a plus-plus guy. That means my height, weight and speed are what they consider above average in terms of the position I play. It all depends on the team and what their interest levels become.

DK: You mentioned an agent, so you have an agent helping you along with the process on top of the help from Coach Toerper and Coach Warner?

DS: I signed with John Perez of Perez Sports. He’s been helping me a lot throughout this process. He has guys who have backgrounds similar to mine. We’re going to have ongoing conversations with him about interests and conversations he might be having with scouts.

DK: Now that both pro days are done and it’s in the hands of the scouts that you talked to and watched you workout, what is the takeaway from the process about the effort you put in even to put yourself in this situation?

DS: I’m proud of how I showed up and performed. It really shows you have to work hard to get to that point and get your body right. It’s a highly competitive industry to try and go play in the NFL. Showing that the athleticism can stack up against some of these Division I guys. I’m proud of where it is and it’s just not going to be like this kind of finality; I’m just segwayed right into where I’m starting to work out again and get right back on the grind. But it was enjoyable to go out there and show out after months of training. It doesn’t feel rewarding at the time, but when it’s all said and done, I can look back and say that I put myself in a real opportunity. 

Leave a Comment
Donate to THE ITHACAN
$1375
$2000
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support The Ithacan's student journalists in their effort to keep the Ithaca College and wider Ithaca community informed. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
About the Contributors
Daniel King, Senior Writer
Nolan Saunders, Photographer
Donate to THE ITHACAN
$1375
$2000
Contributed
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Ithacan Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *