Howard's Geoff Pope Fulfills His NFL Dream
By The Hilltop Sports Staff - Black College Wire   

Geoff Pope
Twenty-three years old and recruited for the NFL from Howard University, Geoff Pope said he has already attained his "greatest goal."

Standing at 6-feet and weighing 193 pounds, Pope gets his personal motivation from Isaiah 54:17, tattooed on his left arm. He was signed with the New York Giants on Sept. 2 as a cornerback.

(Recently, the Giants signed Pope off their practice squad. Pope had spent the season on the team's practice squad.)

"Football is my first love," Pope said. "The game is where I feel most comfortable, and it has opened many doors for me."

Unlike some, he did not find it hard to balance family, friends and outside relationships because he knew he would need to stand out in order to overwhelmingly beat his competition. Pope is on the practice squad that meets daily.

Pope attended University of Detroit Jesuit High School, which was an all-boys school in his hometown of Detroit.

He went to Eastern Michigan University for two years, and at both high school and college, he played football and ran track.

While racing at Eastern Michigan he injured his quadricep muscle and was unable to walk for three months, and had to undergo five hours of daily physical therapy to recuperate.

It was during this time that Pope re-evaluated his reckless lifestyle of fighting and disrespecting women -- and himself. He changed his life for the better, and does not take the blessings in his life for granted.

He now makes sure to call his grandma every night to say "goodnight, and I love you."

However, due to Pope's injury he did not have much time on the playing field. Pope, feeling mistreated by his coach, transferred to Howard University.

Initially Pope did not seem to fit in with some of the guys and some girls ignored him, but his skills on the field ultimately grabbed their attention.

Scouts took notice of Pope's rare speed at 4.21 seconds at Pro Day this year and saw he had great potential.

Pope knew size and speed could not be coached, so he made every effort to dominate in those areas.

Pope sought an agent, who set up training for him at Competitive Edge Sports (CES) during the summer in Atlanta for three months, which trained him for private workouts and NFL minicamp.

While preparing for the draft, Pope dealt with several injuries over a four-month period.

Pope broke his foot, caught a full body cramp, broke his hand, and caught a staph infection, all of which caused him to miss some practices. But he never missed a game, and he maintained his speed.

Pope did not get drafted in the 2007 draft but signed a free agent contract with the Miami Dolphins. However, he was released on Sept. 1. But the following day, Pope was signed to the New York Giants.

"If God has something meant for you, you're going to get it," Pope said.

Pope is not the first Bison to make it to the NFL.

Ronald Bartell was drafted in 2005 and plays for the St. Louis Rams, and Antoine Bethea was drafted in 2006 and plays for the Indianapolis Colts.

Pope said he does not feel pressure from these two who have gone before him. "I compare myself to the man in the mirror, and after seeing my grandmother come out of brain surgery, with a five percent chance of making it through surgery, it put my obstacles into perspective. I always have my own measurements," Pope said.

Pope believes that NFL success requires college grit. According to statistics from SportKid Magazine, two percent of college seniors are drafted by the NFL.

"A lot of players make it because they are from big schools, but smaller schools have greater work ethic," Pope said. "NFL mini camps and 12-hour days really test your love for the game. I've seen some [guys] quit and walk away due to the pressure."

Coming to Howard from a predominantly white school, Pope discussed how Howard had a different coaching style.

Pope said the input from defensive back coach Ronald Bolden helped him a lot.

Pope has one semester remaining at Howard University.

Pope is a staunch believer in education. Some athletes have not balanced the ball with the books, but Pope understands the necessity of doing well in the classroom and on the field.

"Having a degree allows you to have more opportunities and something to fall back on," Pope said. "The average career of a football player is three years, and you have to think about what comes after that."

In addition to Pope's football career, this year he launched Take Over Entertainment, which specializes in "premiere exclusive entertainment." Take Over Entertainment has already had some collaboration with Press Pass TV and plans to do more in the near future.

According to the Racial and Gender Report Card by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at University of Central Florida, 76 percent of blacks make up the NBA and 70 percent make up the NFL. There are very few black coaches.

Just last year, the first two black coaches, Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith went to the NFL Super Bowl.

"The New York Giants have the only black general manager of a football team, and it's sad because the majority of football players are black," Pope said. "I hope to see some improvements made within the next five to ten years."

A version of this article originally appeared in The Hilltop, Howard University's student newspaper.

Posted Jan. 2, 2008

Posted Jan. 02, 2008