Former DeMatha All-Met offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio was picked by the Buffalo Bills on Friday with the 12th pick of the second round (44th overall) of the NFL Draft.
In Kouandjio, the Bills get a 6-foot-7, 322-pound force who displays the strength and quick first step to drive defenders off the ball and open holes for his teammates. At Alabama, Kouandjio helped lead the Crimson Tide to two national titles and earned first team all-America honors as a junior last year after allowing just 1.5 sacks and recording 14 pancake blocks during a regular season in which Alabama rack up nearly 6,000 yards from the line of scrimmage.
The Cameroon native didn’t start playing football until six years ago, when he joined the DeMatha team as a sophomore and played alongside his older brother, Arie. But in just two years, Kouandjio evolved into the nation’s top offensive lineman as a senior, leading to offers from nearly 60 schools.
“He’s so gifted naturally,” former DeMatha offensive line coach Timothy Breslin said. “There’s a lot of clichés out there but when the good Lord pictured an offensive tackle, he had in mind somebody that looks like Cyrus and has his athletic ability. In fact, I think one of the advantages of Cyrus not playing football when he was young is if he did, I think he would have been a defensive player because he’s so athletic.”
Kouandjio displayed this athleticism and toughness at Alabama, overcoming a knee injury in his freshman year to become the Crimson Tide’s starting left tackle during his sophomore and junior seasons. Still, some questions linger about Kouandjio’s durability and mobility after the lineman failed several physicals by NFL teams due to the effects from his knee surgery, according to ESPN’s Todd McShay. Still, the consensus among McShay and other draft experts is that Kouandjio has the ability to become a solid starter in the NFL.
That journey will begin with the Bills, whose hat Kouandjio donned on the stage at Radio City Music Hall in New York after realizing a dream that seemed so distant just seven years ago.
“I remember when I was walking through these hallways at DeMatha and would look back at former guys going to the NFL and thinking ‘Man, that is so far away in the future,’” Kouandjio said in a recent interview. “I couldn’t even imagine it because it felt like 100 years later. But the time has come. It came quick, too. My occupation is to be a football player and I’m going to go at it 100 percent.”