The going just got a lot tougher for Stony Brook's running backs as they prepare to move to Colonial Athletic Association football. Preseason All-American right tackle Michael Bamiro's request for an extension of his eligibility recently was denied by the NCAA, according to school officials, and the 6-8, 335-pound prospect is headed to the NFL as a free agent.
Bamiro, who has retained agent Billy Conaty and is preparing for a private workout Thursday for NFL scouts, said the eligibility issue came as a "huge surprise" to him when he first learned about it in late May. He had received his bachelor's degree in journalism and was expecting to return to Stony Brook as a graduate student for his senior season.
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The sudden turn of events has been life-changing. "It's intense, almost surreal," Bamiro said in a telephone interview. "One minute I was living in my dorm and now I'm training to be a professional athlete."
The eligibility issue traces to Bamiro's 2008 enrollment at the University of Pittsburgh-Titusville, a campus that primarily offers two-year programs leading to associate degrees. It has men's and women's basketball teams that compete on the junior college level but no other sports programs. Bamiro was not recruited to play sports but was enrolled as a full-time student.
When Bamiro decided he wanted to play football, he transferred in 2009 to Stony Brook, where one brother, David, played football and another brother, Solomon, played basketball. Like many recruits, Bamiro redshirted his first year and then played three seasons from 2010-12, helping to pave the way for a pair of 1,000-yard rushers each of those seasons, winning at least a share of three straight Big South titles and advancing to the second round of the FCS playoffs the past two seasons.
Bamiro was under the impression that he had one more year of eligibility after redshirting in 2009, but under NCAA bylaws, the five-year clock to complete his eligibility began ticking in 2008 because he was a full-time student. Stony Brook then sought the waiver that the NCAA denied.
The loss comes as a blow to the Seawolves, who expected to have their entire starting offensive line intact for the move to the CAA. "He's been a major part of the road to success not only as a player but as a person," football coach Chuck Priore said of Bamiro. "He never missed a practice, never missed a game because of injury. He stands for hard work and toughness, and he's a good person."
Because no one knew he was eligible for the 2013 NFL draft and because he exhausted his college eligibility and therefore is ineligible for Thursday's NFL supplemental draft, Bamiro is a free agent. Priore has been fielding calls from a variety of NFL teams.
"The NFL is very realistic for him," Priore said. "His body equals the measurables, and his talent gets better and better. Athletically, he's well-prepared, and he's got the character and work ethic."
Conaty is expecting representatives from 12 to 15 teams for Thursday's workout. "Interest is extremely high," Conaty said. "Some teams offered contracts for him to sign before he works out. There aren't many 6-8 players who can bend the way he can and are as athletic."
Some may question Bamiro's pass-blocking skills after he played in a run-oriented offense, but many will see a tremendous upside. Despite the late start to his college career, Bamiro emphasized, "I do love this game and every aspect of playing."
The interest his free agency has generated has been exciting for Bamiro. "I was just hoping to go somewhere to a team," he said. "Now the pressure is on to put on a show Thursday."