The workouts are done and the interviews have been completed, and now Shaka Toney waits. The defensive end from Penn State and Imhotep Charter isn’t nervous, however, about when he will hear his name called in this week’s NFL draft.
“I’m just even-keel, one day at a time, focus on the 24 hours that I’m living in presently, don’t worry about the next 24,” Toney said last Monday night in a telephone interview. “I feel like people get overwhelmed when they start overthinking things and thinking too far ahead or thinking too far in the past. I just focus on the present, what’s in front of me, and control what I can control.
“I’m not an overly anxious person. I know it’s easy to say now, but I know how I am. I’m just going to be patient. For me, I just want to get drafted. It’s not the end of the world when, because I know how hard I’m going to work and how much I’m going to put into it and I know the rewards will come later on. But as far as what’s in front of me, I’m just going to lock in on whatever I can and can’t do.”
The 6-foot-2, 242-pound Toney has enjoyed the process of working out for and being interviewed by NFL teams. He had an impressive pro day last month at Penn State, clocking 4.51 seconds in the 40-yard dash, doing 24 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, and posting a vertical leap of 39 inches.
Toney said he especially has relished the interviews, showing team officials that “I’m football savvy but also that I’m humble and I want to learn as much as possible.
“I love talking football, it’s always fun,” he said. “I know a lot of guys get worn out doing all the interviews, but I love football. I want to coach. So for me, this is really a learning opportunity to set myself up for the next 10-15 years post-career. Everybody doesn’t play 20 years like Tom Brady. People’s careers end early. So I know what I want my next step to be.”
Most draft projections for Toney, who may be moved from an edge rusher to an outside linebacker position if he lands with a team that plays a 3-4 defensive alignment, have him being selected somewhere in the fourth round. Toney pays no mind to mock drafts.
“I stay completely away,” he said. “Anybody can sit behind a computer and give a mock draft. Most guys have no credentials to even do so, so that’s why I don’t even pay attention to it. The real football people know the real football players.”
Toney, a first-team All-Big Ten selection last season, led the Nittany Lions with five sacks, and his 7½ tackles for loss ranked second on the team. He finished his collegiate career with 20½ sacks, eighth in program history.
Penn State defensive line coach John Scott Jr. worked with Toney for the first time last season and called him a “super, super-smart football player.
“I think anybody that gets Shaka Toney on their football team, you’re going to be able to do a lot of things with him,” he said. “I think you could be really creative with him. You could rush Shaka off the edge. You can drop Shaka into coverage and he’s going to be able to do the job, and do it well. I think you’re getting a high-IQ football player with Shaka.”
Toney gives credit for what he learned last season not only to Scott, but to former Penn State defensive end Deion Barnes, a Northeast High graduate who is now a graduate assistant with the Nittany Lions.
“I really got to be able to lean on both of them really and just understand more football than just beating the guy in front of you,” Toney said. “It’s about doing your job. It’s about being crisp at your job, making sure you’re on top of the details because the details are what makes the man. Anybody can make plays, everybody can’t do their job.”
Toney also said that his fund-raising effort for the Boys and Girls Club of Philadelphia based on the number of bench press reps he completed at pro day netted over $5,500, more than twice his original goal of $2,500.
“I really appreciate everybody that donated, especially from the Penn State community,” he said. “It really meant a lot to me.”