Nick Kasa recently had his NFL future flash before his eyes along with a little pavement.
The former Colorado tight end decided to get outside his usual training regimen as he prepared for the NFL draft. He had seen news reports about players such as Robert Griffin III and Ray Lewis riding bikes to help with their conditioning and thought he would try it. He hopped on his mountain bike and pedaled up into the mountains west of Boulder near the Flatirons.
On his way back down, Kasa inadvertently hit his front brake too hard and the 6-foot-5, 270-pounder ended up going over the handlebars onto the road, scraping his face. This football player wasn't wearing a helmet, something he feels fortunate to be able to laugh about now.
"It definitely could have been a lot worse," Kasa said. "That was really dumb. Right now I'm just staying low key. I'll just hang out in the weight room and maybe throw some balls around."
The first round of the NFL Draft kicks off Thursday night followed by the second and third rounds Friday night and rounds four through seven during the day Saturday. Kasa plans to watch the draft at his parents' home in Thornton. He is one of eight Buffs who are eligible this year, including offensive lineman David Bakhtiari, who became just the seventh CU player in history to leave school early to enter the draft.
Bakhtiari, who would have been a senior in 2013, is the highest rated CU prospect this year followed by Kasa. Bakhtiari is projected to be a third or fourth round selection and Kasa will likely be picked on the final day of the draft Saturday.
Several other former Buffs such as defensive lineman Will Pericak, a product of Boulder High School, and safety Ray Polk could be picked in the late rounds and are expected to sign as undrafted free agents if they aren't picked.
Kasa's story is well documented now. Once rated as a five-star recruit as a defensive lineman, he spent his first 21/2 years in Boulder playing defensive line. Midway through his junior season in 2011, former coach Jon Embree and his staff approached him about switching to tight end where the program needed help.
Kasa was starved for a chance to get on the field and prove himself and he attacked the opportunity. In 18 months he has turned himself into a tight end who is still considered a project in some ways but one who also is seen as having the potential to play in the NFL for years.
"It's pretty surreal right now," Kasa said. "I'm just thankful for everything that I have. I'm thankful to coach (Jon) Embree and his staff for all the opportunity that they gave me. I really wouldn't be here if I didn't get those opportunities and taking advantage of them day to day the best that I could."
Colorado has had a total of 263 players drafted by the NFL, including Byron White who became the first back in 1938. Two Buffs were picked last year. Offensive lineman Ryan Miller was taken in the fifth round 160th overall by Cleveland and Toney Clemons was taken in the seventh round 231st overall by Pittsburgh.
The last Buffs to be picked in the first round were Nate Solder and Jimmy Smith, who were taken by New England and Baltimore, respectively, in 2011.
The past decade has produced some pretty bleak overall results on the field for CU with no conference titles and one bowl game victory, but the program has produced a surprising number of draft picks in that time considering those results, with a total of 35 or nearly four pros per year.
Kasa said he has gone through several individual workouts for teams since pro day at CU in early March. He said he feels like he performed well in those workouts. His agent has advised him not to divulge the names of those franchises.
The general pre-draft assessment of Kasa is that he's a capable run blocker who needs work in the passing game.
"I think I showed that I'm still making progress toward that," Kasa said.
Kasa said he believes he will get drafted but he is taking the advice of his agent and former CU teammates who have been through draft days in the past by preparing himself for the possibility that he will be an undrafted free agent on Saturday night.
"I'll probably be a little upset, but I'm fine with anything," Kasa said. "I'll take a free agent opportunity. That may even be better because I get to pick where to go and choose what might be the best fit for me. I know I'm going to work my (butt) off wherever I go.
"Right now anything is better than where I was a year-and-a-half ago when I thought I would play my senior year and never get to play football again. I'm going to the next level and I'm going to prove that I need to be there when I get there."
Follow Kyle on Twitter: @KyleRingo