In a historic moment for Georgia State sports, defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi was selected by the Raiders in the sixth round of the NFL draft on Saturday.
Bilukidi is the first player in the program’s short history to be drafted by a NFL team.
“It opens doors now,” he said. ”Georgia State has a lot of athletes. Downtown Atlanta is a huge media market. It’s good that we are moving to FBS. It will open doors to athletes at Georgia State. It’s great for the community.”
Bilukidi had 10 sacks with 16 tackles for loss in Georgia State’s only two seasons. He was mentioned as perhaps a late-round selection in the run-up to the draft. He worked out or visited with more than a dozen teams, including Oakland. But he was mostly considered as a legitimate prospect for the CFL. He, along with his coaches, may have been one of the few who wasn’t surprised when the Raiders picked him at No. 189.
“I’m not surprised at all,” he said. ”I worked hard for it.”
Georgia State coach Bill Curry said he wasn’t surprised that Bilukidi was selected. Curry said that he hasn’t been part of NFL evaluations, but he “recognizes a NFL player when I see one.
“He did the job on the field and off the field.”
While making history is nice, being a footnote isn’t the goal. Bilukidi said playing in the NFL is the goal and his coaches think he could become a solid performer.
Chris Ward, who coaches defensive tackles at Georgia State, said because of Bilukidi’s size (6-5, 315 pounds), speed (4.9 seconds in the 40-yard dash) and ability to change direction, he could become really good.
“He hasn’t peaked yet,” Ward said. “You put him around other NFL players and he’s only going to get better.”
Former Georgia State defensive coordinator John Thompson said he likes Bilukidi’s intelligence and ability to rush the passer. Like Ward, Thompson said Bilukidi is only going to get better and that he predicts he will have a long, productive career.
Bilukidi has an unusual back story. A native of Angola, he has lived in France and Brazil before his family moved to Canada. He speaks fluent French. He played one year of football in high school in Ontario, saying the NFL wasn’t a consideration then. He signed with Eastern Arizona Junior College and then signed with Georgia State. He said that he learned while playing under Curry, whom Bilukidi said was his inspiration, that he could compete on the highest level.
“Christo has a chance to really make it because of his own merits: His work ethic, he’s tough and he’s smart,” Curry said.
Bilukidi won’t have a lot of time to celebrate. He will graduate with a degree in sociology on May 6 and then report to mini-camp on May 10.
The historic effect of the moment is already being felt in Georgia State’s football program. Ward said he was receiving email after email and text after text from current players Saturday afternoon who said they are going to work even harder now that they’ve seen one of their own get chosen by a NFL team.
Curry said Bilukidi-to-the-NFL and the move to the Sun Belt will help recruiting because high school players want to know if professional football is a possibility.
“I’ve heard from our players and players around the state because of the recent moves, guys who are getting the word out,”‘ Curry said. “Hopefully, it will also show that those who stay the course and don’t make mistakes that are not correctable will benefit.”