Canadian offensive lineman Tomas Jack-Kurdyla watched and learned from NFL star Khalil Mack whenever he made trips back to the University of Buffalo.
Mack was the fifth overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft and already has earned a number of accolades in the pros, most notably the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2016. Jack-Kurdyla had the opportunity for up-close looks at how Mack trains and prepares to be among the elite defenders in the NFL.
“I loved it. I took every moment in. I saw how he worked, saw how he came in as a professional, how he talks to everybody, how he looks everybody in the eye. That dude is just a beast and really a great role model,” Jack-Kurdyla on the 3DownNation Podcast.
“I have met him a couple times. His younger brother went to UB, Ladarius Mack — he’s monster defensive end. Khalil Mack would definitely come around campus, definitely show love. He’d work out with us, compete, he’s an insane beast, he’s a monster. I remember a couple times where I was a practice dummy for him and it was insane.”
Just like Mack, Jack-Kurdyla is trying to impress and be selected as high as possible in the NFL and CFL drafts. His workmanlike approach has impressed personnel men on both sides of the border, a mentality he developed at a young age. He still has the original PlayStation 3 he purchased with his own money growing up in Montreal.
“I had to work for everything, I had nothing handed to me as a child. My parents provided everything that I needed, but anything that I wanted, they told me that I had to go out and get it myself,” Jack-Kurdyla said.
“I had to shovel snow for a couple winters to save up money to buy my first PS3. That was mine, I still have it to this day and I cherish it to this day because I worked hard for it.”
Jack-Kurdyla was a jack of all trades in the workforce. He earned paycheques from Provigo grocery store, AMC movie theatre, Vanier Sports Complex, as a mover and lawnmower. Versatility was a trait the six-foot-three, 300-pounder carried over onto the football field. He has the ability to line up at any position if needed, which has drawn increased attention of pro scouts.
“I’ve been asked to do it my whole career to play different spots. I just want to make sure I get in the door,” Jack-Kurdyla said.
“As long as I get on foot in the door, I feel like I can press on and press through and make something of it. You dream about it for so long.”
Jack-Kurdyla performed for nine NFL and five CFL teams at his University of Buffalo pro day. He made the six-hour drive to his hometown of Montreal as the world was in the process of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Facilities closed and the border was essentially shutdown the day following his showing on March 12 in front of talent evaluators.
“That kid is a smooth mover for an offensive lineman and should get an NFL look, but if he doesn’t he could be a starter quickly in the CFL,” one scout said.
“I was fortunate and blessed to sneak it in right on the last day,” Jack-Kurdyla said.
Even if Jack-Kurdyla doesn’t make it back to Buffalo for awhile, he left the program in a better place. He earned a starting role on the offensive line during his true freshman year in 2016. Through four seasons with the Bulls, Jack-Kurdyla started in 40 games at guard, including being a key part of Buffalo’s first-ever twn-win season in 2018 and the team’s first bowl victory in the 2019 Bahamas Bowl.
“I just saw the potential with UB. I’ve seen it grow, the commitment level of the city, they love sports in Buffalo. I remember when I first went to UB, we didn’t have what we have now, when I left,” Jack-Kurdyla said.
“We didn’t have indoor facilities, we didn’t have dining tables or sufficient meeting rooms. Our locker room didn’t look the same, our turf was different, the carpet on the floors in the locker room was different, our lockers were different.”
Jack-Kurdyla was part of the winningest class in Bulls program history and was able to complete his masters program in education studies. His ability to focus and zero-in prioritize tasks will serve him well at the professional level.
“Time management, time management, time management — having to balance what I want to do and what I have to do,” Jack-Kurdyla said. “If I don’t have time to do anything else, then I don’t.”