Josiah Deguara: Path to the NFL Draft
The tight end position is becoming more and more important to being successful in the NFL. Whether it’s blocking or receiving, the versatility that one player can bring to an offense is unlike any other position. The New England Patriots had their greatest success with Rob Gronkowski as a target for Tom Brady. The Baltimore Ravens used two tight ends to devastating effect during the 2019 season. Travis Kelce was a consistent weapon for the Kansas City Chiefs on their journey to Super Bowl 54. After crushing the NFL Combine, teams are beginning to find out why Josiah Deguara can be the next Cincinnati Bearcat tight end to take the NFL by storm.
“My style of game, I would say versatility is the best word to describe it. That’s what I think is my biggest strength. I can do a lot of different things on the field. I can play every special teams, line up inline and block, I can split out wide and win one on one matchups in the passing game. Versatility is my biggest strength.”
Faith. Family. Football.
From growing up in Folsom, California to the verge of being drafted to the NFL, Josiah Deguara’s life has been made up of three key elements. All three have combined to get him to where he is now.
“The three most important things in my life are faith, family, and football.”
“Faith is a huge part of my life. In times of need and even in times of don’t need, I always lean on my faith. God’s the reason I’m here today and without him I don’t know where I’d be. Give God the glory for everything. Without him I don’t know where I’d be, he deserves all the praise.”
“Family’s huge for me. We’re super close. I have my mum, dad, and my younger sister along with a huge extended family support. I don’t know where I’d be without my family. My Dad, in particular, has helped me a lot through this process, just bouncing things off of him. I don’t know what I’d do without them either.”
With his faith and family by his side, Josiah Degaura found the final element in his life as a kid in a football crazy part of California. He was surrounded by inspiration, and a love for the game was born.
“My love of football stems from a young age. I grew up in Folson, California, about 30 minutes outside of Sacramento. It’s a big football town. A lot of great players have come from there. I grew up a Raiders fan, so I liked a lot of Raiders players growing up. Jordan Richards, who’s in the NFL right now, he was four or five years older than me and from the same town so I really looked up to him. There were a lot of players that he went to Folsom High School with as well. So, I really looked up to those guys and really tried to be a student of the game from anywhere I could get it.”
Josiah Deguara and the Folsom Bulldogs
Josiah Deguara followed Richards’ path to Folsom High School. It was there where he would first display the versatility which would become the hallmark of his playing style. Deguara was a 2014 California Division I All-State tight end whilst at the same time picking up First Team All-Metro honours as an H-back. It was a successful time for Deguara and the Bulldogs.
“I loved my time at Folsom. It was a great little city to grow up in. We had some great players there. Folsom lost two games in my whole high school career, went undefeated and won the State Championship in my senior year. We got a couple guys in the league and hopefully I’m gonna be another one. Super grateful for my time out there.”
Not only did Folsom provide the first glimpse of his potential on the field, it also helped instil the work ethic that Deguara prides himself in as he prepares to embark on the next stage of his career.
“My coaches expected greatness and that led into college and now into this next step. My two coaches, Coach Richardson and Troy Taylor, they both instilled in me that they don’t expect anything but perfection and that’s what I try to model my game after. It’s been a huge part of my football career. As I jump into the NFL ranks I’m going to continue to expect that from myself.”
Recruitment leaves a chip on the shoulder
During that State Championship run with the Folsom Bulldogs, Josiah Deguara contributed 1671 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns. He left the program with 3274 receiving yards and 42 touchdowns. Despite a successful and productive high school career, he left the Bulldogs as a 2* prospect. It’s a lack of respect that still drives him today.
“I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder. I felt like I should have received a little more love in the recruiting ranks coming out of high school. I’ve always used that to prove to myself, and to others, that I’m better than people expect of me. Even now I still continue to use it. It’s not my main form of motivation but it definitely motivates to go out and get better every day, continue to improve my game on a daily basis.”
As a 2* prospect, Josiah Deguara wasn’t overrun with offers but he did receive a late offer to play Division I football. His path to the NFL Draft almost had a very different story.
“I didn’t get too much love, so I wasn’t talking to a bunch of coaches every day. Nothing like that. It was really hectic towards the end. I didn’t receive an offer to Cincinnati until two weeks before signing day and I was going to commit to a school 45 minutes from my house. It was really hectic but besides that I’m blessed to get an offer from Cincinnati.”
A tough start to college for Josiah Deguara
The early days of College Football were tough for Josiah Deguara. It was at this time that leaning on two of his favourite things in life helped him continue on his football journey.
“It was tough. I faced a lot of adversity. I pretty much moved across the country to play football and that was kinda taken away from me when I tore my labrum the second month I was there. Going back to talking about faith and family, that was a time where I really had to lean on them. I had to mature and grow up a lot during that time period. But, at the end of the day, it made me not only a better person but a better player as well.”
After redshirting in 2015, Josiah Deguara finally made the field as a Cincinnati Bearcat in 2016. Despite accounting for just 15 receptions and 145 yards through his first two years, it was his starring role in another phase of the game that has equipped him well for the jump to the NFL.
“I think it’s huge. Going into college, not a lot of guys want to play special teams. But, throughout this process every team that I’ve spoken to, at the Senior Bowl and at the Combine, have asked me if I played special teams. I’m super grateful that I was able to do that. Even in the moment, when some guys don’t really wanna do it, I was always open to doing it. Any way I could make the team better. It helped me out a lot and I know I’m going to have to do that when I get to the league. It’s only going to help me.”
From special team standout to starter
After standing out on special teams for two years, 2018 was a breakout year for Josiah Deguara. He played in all 13 games and had 38 receptions for over 400 receiving yards and five touchdowns. It was at this time that he realised his dream of playing in the NFL wasn’t just a dream, but it was achievable.
“It was always a dream. It’s every kid’s dream to play in the NFL. It started to feel real after my junior season in college. I had a pretty good junior year. It was my first year starting and I was able to do a lot of good things that year. My name started getting thrown around a little bit. Ever since then it’s kept growing and growing and I think that’s when it really hit me that this is something that I’m going to be able to achieve. It’s not something that’s super far off but it’s right here.”
Team first for Josiah Deguara
The success of 2018 saw Josiah Deguara honoured with a Second Team All-AAC nod. He followed that year up with an even better season in his senior year for the Bearcats. With over 500 receiving yards and seven touchdowns he led the Bearcats to the AAC Championship Game, and an appearance in the Birmingham Bowl. Like in 2018, he was honoured for his performance, this time making it onto the First Team All-AAC team. Despite the individual success, it was the change around in the Bearcat program that Deguara is most proud of.
“It’s always cool to get accolades for yourself. But, the number one thing for me is that I’m a team first guy and if we’re not winning on the field then nothing that I do really matters. I just try to make the team better with everything that I do and if things come for me with that, like receptions or something like that then of course I’m going to be happy about that. The biggest thing that I loved between my sophomore and junior year was that we went from 4-8 to 11-2 and that’s something that I’m more proud of than anything else.”
NCAA Career in Sports Forum
Prior to his senior year in Cincinnati, Josiah Deguara had the opportunity to examine his options for a post college career in sports at the NCAA Career in Sports Forum.
“That was a great experience. That’s another thing that football set up for me but that was more pertaining to the business world. I got to learn a lot about life after football, careers that I might see myself doing after I’m done with the game. I met a lot of student athletes that are in a similar boat to me. Learned a lot about what I’ll be doing after football. Whenever I’m done playing football, I’m definitely going to look to that experience.”
Josiah Deguara shines at the Senior Bowl
It isn’t an experience Josiah Deguara will need to look to anytime soon. After a successful final two years as a Cincinnati Bearcat he received a call up to the Reece’s Senior Bowl. It was another opportunity to showcase the skillset that will define him at the next level.
“The week was awesome. It was super cool to be able to compete against some of the best players in the country. My expectations going into that week was to compete, as I said, but also to show teams my playmaking ability and my versatility. I wanted to show teams, up close and personal, what I could do against the best players in the country. I think I was able to do that out there. It was an awesome experience and being able to compete, that’s the number one thing I love about football is competition.”
At the Senior Bowl he went from one Cincinnati team in college to playing for another Cincinnati team at the Senior Bowl, lining up for the Bengals led South Team.
“That was awesome. Zac Taylor was my OC at Cincinnati in my freshman year so seeing him again was cool. We were able to catch up a little bit, talk about his times at Cincinnati. He’s a great coach and I know he’s going to do great things in the NFL. I learned a lot from Coach Casey, the tight ends coach. He taught me a lot that week. Played a little fullback so I was learning a lot. I was trying to be a sponge out there. I’m a student of the game and tried to learn as much as I could.”
Crushing the NFL Combine in Indianapolis
After a successful week at the Senior Bowl, Josiah Deguara went from Mobile to Indianapolis where he continued to turn heads with his performance at the NFL Combine. He was never outside the Top 10 tight ends in the athletic testing, and led the way in the bench press, a testament to the strength he shows blocking as a tight end. He looked impressive out on the field in positional drills too.
“I did everything I went out there to do. I wish I ran a faster 40 but asides from that I think I achieved everything I wanted to achieve. Teams saw my playmaking ability out there. I did well in the testing as well as the field workouts. It was a long week, for sure. It was taxing not only physically but mentally. You’ve just got to step back and realise that it’s a dream come true to be at the NFL Combine and it was a blessing to be out there and to be able to compete and show what I’ve got.”
Part of the mentally taxing element of the NFL Combine is the team interviews. Teams are famous for pushing prospects in the interviews to test their reactions to certain questions, digging for a deeper insight into a player’s mental makeup.
“One team, I won’t say the team, asked me if I’d rather be a cat or a dog. Then followed that up with a couple of math questions. That was probably the most interesting thing I got asked out there.”
Having spent the last five years as a Cincinnati Bearcat I presumed the answer would be cat…
“I’m a dog person, I’ve gotta admit I’m a big dog guy.”
The Greatest Tight End of all time?
The importance of the tight end position has been evidenced in the last couple of days. With NFL free agency beginning in full force with the legal tampering period, the tight end market is more lucrative than it has ever been. Josiah Deguara points to one player who has found a new home in the last 48 hours as the greatest to ever do it at the position. It just so happens that new home is with Deguara’s favourite team, the Raiders.
“I would say Jason Witten. The things he’s been able to do in the league. He even retired for a year and felt like he wasn’t done and was able to come back. That was super cool to see.”
The dream is in sight for Josiah Deguara
With the NFL Draft just five weeks away, Josiah Deguara is about to become part of the future of the tight end position. He brings a competitive nature, resiliency, and a versatility to the game. The quest for perfection, instilled in him from his high school days, is evident as he describes why a team should draft him.
“First of all, no-one is going to out work me, from an on the field and off the field standpoint. No-one is going to work harder than me at learning the playbook, learning the in and outs of the offense and getting everything down. Then there’s my versatility. I can do a lot of different things. I don’t see a big weakness in my game. There’s a lot of things I can do really well. Obviously, there’s always room for improvement and I’m working on that every day. Any team that I’m on, I can help out greatly.”
The path to the NFL Draft is nearly over and the dream of playing in the NFL is almost here. Josiah Deguara’s journey of football, faith, and family will result in hearing his name called somewhere between April 23rd and 25th.
“It would mean the world. God has placed me in this position, so it’s just a blessing to be where I’m at. When you look back on it, being able to look at it from perspective, to see how far I’ve come, it’s been an awesome journey. I’m just blessed to be in the position I am. To have my name even being in the mention of being drafted is amazing and any team that picks me I’m gonna be grateful for it.”
OLIVER HODGKINSON IS A COLLEGE FOOTBALL WRITER FOR THE TOUCHDOWN. HE ALSO WRITES ON THE NFL FOR THE PRO FOOTBALL NETWORK. YOU CAN HEAR HIS OPINIONS ON ALL THINGS COLLEGE FOOTBALL AS ONE THIRD OF THE COLLEGE CHAPS PODCAST.
Feature Image Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Huge thanks to Josiah Deguara for taking the time to speak to us. Also to Alexis Ramos and Rebecca Otto at Wasserman for connecting us.