Shaka Toney’s introduction to college football was one unlike any other. As a freshman, the lanky, wiry athlete from Philadelphia had his locker slotted next to a chiseled, mature athlete in All-American talent Saquon Barkley. It was a quick reality check for Toney, who used the moment as a wake-up call to get in the weight room once he arrived on campus. It was a strategic placement for head coach James Franklin, and five years later, Toney has begun to form his own spotlight in a deep, talented Nittany Lion prospect pool.
As Micah Parsons and Jayson Oweh took over much of the headlines surrounding Penn State’s Pro Day on Thursday morning, Toney remained himself. Unlike the aforementioned athletic tandem, it wasn’t anything new to Toney to see the two potential day-one prospects enjoy eye-popping days for the 31 NFL franchises in attendance—it was expected.
Toney knew he wouldn’t run 4.3, he knew wouldn’t record an 11-foot broad jump, he stuck to himself. It’s been a soft, constant narrative surrounding the fifth-year senior: “just being yourself.” But as he enters the draft process, it couldn’t be more true.
“You can’t compete with freaks of nature,” Toney exclaimed.
“You just got to let it be. You got to compete with yourself. I’ve been knowing Micah since he was in high school. I’ve known Jayson since he was a freshman, and they’ve been doing these things. At the end of the day, making plays, I’m just as good as them. I can do anything they can do. Testing… this is how the cookie crumbles sometimes.”
On the other end of the scale, running a 4.3, jumping out of the gym, and bench-pressing a Volkswagen doesn’t make you a good football player. Sure, it helps, but look to Oweh for the perfect example of elite raw talent with limited overall production. Toney, on the other hand, has a step up where his on-field talents trump his ability to draw the common eye when lined up next to his defensive teammates in a workout session.
Following an impressive career that saw him record 20.5 sacks, good for eighth all-time in Happy Valley, Toney concluded his illustrious Nittany Lion career with a superb pro day session of his own, running 4.51 in the 40, recording a 39-inch vertical jump, a 128-inch broad jump, and he repped 225 pounds 24 times in the bench press. Each one of those numbers—except for the bench—would have ranked first among all EDGE prospects at the 2020 NFL combine. It was just a matter of unfortunate circumstance that Parsons and Oweh were also in attendance, but Toney lit up Holuba Hall for his numbers at 6-foot-3 and 242 pounds.
As a pro, it’s a tricky evaluation when projecting Toney into an NFL defense. He has the ability to work in an odd front as a light defensive end, but he’s communicated to teams his weight of 242 is a fluctuating total after a battle with COVID earlier in the year. Toney initially weighed in at 252 to start his redshirt senior year, and if his future team sees him as an end in a 3-4 front, his play weight would drastically have to increase by 15-25 pounds or he runs the risk of being physically dominated despite his elite bend off the edge. In a rather weak defensive class, Toney represents excellent mid-round value who could develop into a key starter for teams looking for added pop off the edge.
With inner-city roots, community initiatives have become a main premise of the type of man he’s become. Toney has made it a focus that his eventual NFL home will be drafting much more than just a football player.
“I want people to know Shaka Toney is a guy that really wants to go out there and make a change in communities, so I can get behind him,” Toney said. “You know that money’s going to go exactly where it’s supposed to go. I’m not a materialistic person. I’m going to do everything I can to donate, raise as much money, and give back as much back as I can.”
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