NEW BRITAIN - Jacob Dolegala always dreamed of playing in the NFL when he was growing up. Now, he’ll get the chance.
The Central Connecticut State quarterback signed an undrafted rookie free agent deal with the Cincinnati Bengals shortly after the conclusion of the NFL draft on Saturday.
“It’s fantastic,” Dolegala told The Herald as he was surrounded by family, friends and former teammates from his hometown of Hamburg, N.Y. “Obviously, today was a long day. It was a long wait and it was a bit of a rollercoaster in terms of emotions, but I’m excited. It’s always a little disappointing that you aren’t picked, but once you get into camp, that doesn’t matter. I’m ready to get started.”
Dolegala, a four-year starter for the Blue Devils, set school records in passing yards (8,129) and passing touchdowns (48) and helped lead the school for an NEC title in 2017, the school’s first since 2010, and the program’s first-ever FCS playoff berth. Cincinnati took notice and showed an interest in the NEC product.
The Bengals were one of Dolegala’s top-30 visits during the pre-draft process. The 22-year-old flew out to the team’s complex and met with the coaching staff and the front office on April 17, which Dolegala said went well. Dolegala also visited with the Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and New York Giants.
“It was great,” he said of his trip to Cincinnati. “It was exciting when I got there. I got to meet just about everyone, the head coach [Zac Taylor], the owner [Mike Brown] and their quarterbacks coach [Alex Van Pelt] is great. They were calling me during the draft and then right after.”
The Browns, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings and Indianapolis Colts each called him during the draft at some point as well. The Philadelphia Eagles and Colts both offered him opportunities as well.
The Bengals did take a quarterback in the draft, selecting North Carolina State’s Ryan Finley in the fourth round with the 104th overall pick. Finely was a first-team All-ACC selection this past season and was the sixth signal caller taken in the draft behind Kyler Murray (Cardinals), Daniel Jones (Giants), Dwayne Haskins (Redskins), Drew Lock (Broncos) and Will Grier (Panthers). Cincinnati also has starter Andy Dalton and backup Jeff Driskel on its roster.
But that hardly seemed to dampen Dolegala’s sprits as he celebrated his momentous occasion.
“We were watching today and saw they took Finley and everyone was a little disappointed,” Dolegala said. “But again, everyone’s at a level playing field when they get to camp and I’m ready to show what I can do. I’m a big-armed kid who can lead a team.”
Dolegala will officially get his first taste of the NFL when he heads out to Ohio for his first rookie mini camp next week. Until then, he’s get enjoying the moment.
“Having my whole family here, it’s been great,” Dolegala said. “I’m ready to celebrate.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org