John Lotulelei did what he had to leading up to the NFL Draft.
Now he has to wait — probably a couple of days.
The former UNLV standout linebacker could go Saturday from the fifth to seventh rounds. Or he could sign as an undrafted free agent that day.
“I can’t wait to sign somewhere, to be picked up by a team,” Lotulelei said, “and show them what I’ve got.”
The draft starts at 5 p.m. today with the first round.
Lotulelei (5 feet 11 inches, 233 pounds) put together a mostly impressive effort at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis in late February. He ranked among the top linebackers in several categories, including the three-cone drill, where he was second with a time of 6.91 seconds.
His only disappointment occurred in the 40-yard dash, but Lotulelei responded to that time of 4.84 seconds with a 4.65 on March 14 at UNLV’s pro day.
Lotulelei said he was determined at pro day to make such an improvement, that it better matched the speed he exhibited on video of his play at UNLV.
“I needed (the pros) to see what I’ve got,” he said.
A handful of teams have called. The Chicago Bears came to Las Vegas to give him a private workout and told Lotulelei they could see him playing middle linebacker.
Lotulelei prefers to play outside linebacker in the NFL, but he said most of the feedback he has received puts him on the inside. He also probably needs to show what he can do on special teams to increase his chances of making a team.
The fact the Bears made the effort to visit Lotulelei could be telling, but reading tea leaves is always challenging leading up to the draft, with players often going places they don’t expect.
Guessing if Lotulelei will be selected also is difficult to gauge.
NFL.com and NFLDraftScout.com each project him to go in the late rounds. Pro Football Weekly’s Nolan Nawrocki forecasts him as an undrafted priority free agent.
There is agreement on Lotulelei’s high-motor playing style, and his energy was a key part of his success with the Rebels. He led the team with 120 tackles last season and was selected first-team All-Mountain West.
“Has a revved-up motor and pursues urgently inside out,” Nawrocki wrote. “Meets blocks with force. Thumper. Highly competitive.”
Lotulelei hopes to end a two-year drought of UNLV players not being drafted. The last Rebel to be taken was offensive lineman Joe Hawley in the fourth round of the 2010 draft by the Atlanta Falcons.
Maybe Lotulelei will get a similar call Saturday. He said the calls he has taken give him hope.
“That makes me feel like I’m still in the game,” Lotulelei said, “and still able to continue playing football.”
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.