BLOOMFIELD, NJ — With the NFL playoffs heating up, those teams not fortunate enough to make the postseason get a jumpstart on improving their roster for the following season. The New York Giants recently locked down Bloomfield High School graduate Kristjan Sokoli, signing him to its practice squad and giving him a futures contract.
NFL teams use futures contracts to claim the rights to players they think will be able to make some noise in the upcoming season. It's the same as a regular active-roster contract, with the regular rules for minimum veteran salaries, cap charges, signing bonuses, among others. The only difference is that it doesn't take effect until the start of the next league year.
Teams can sign players to futures contracts as soon as the previous regular season is over, but the contract won't count against the salary cap or 53-man limit. Instead, it'll count against the salary cap and 90-man camp limit of the following season. In the meantime, the player goes on the reserve/futures list and can't be signed by any other team.
Sokoli graduated from Bloomfield High School in 2010. Aside from being an all-conference football star who excelled at many different positions, he also made his mark as a discus thrower, finishing sixth in the state in his senior year. After high school, Sokoli committed to the University at Buffalo where he played on the defensive line full-time. He majored in business administration with hopes of working on Wall Street if he wasn't able to make a career in football.
With their sixth round pick in the 2015 NFL draft, the Seattle Seahawks selected Sokoli. He wouldn't play until week 16 of that season where he was inserted into eight special team plays during the game. Those plays may not have been flashy, but they made Sokoli the first Albanian-born player in NFL history.
After being waived by the Seahawks before the 2016 season, he latched on with the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints before the Giants came calling for the 6-foot-5, nearly 300 pound offensive lineman.
TAPinto Bloomfield reached out to Sokoli to learn more about his journey from Bloomfield's Foley Field to the NFL.
What was your greatest memory of playing at Bloomfield High School?
Two moments that stick out, beating East Orange at their field senior year which was a catalyst for turning our season around and tying the country record for relay shot put throw was really cool.
How often do you come back to town?
I come back to town pretty often. My family is here. Now it looks like I may be in town even more. I'm excited to maybe get the chance to work with the Bloomfield football and track teams in my time away.
How did it feel the first time you stepped onto the field during an NFL game?
Pretty surreal. I dreamed about that moment for a long time, so I had to calm myself down. You realize pretty quickly though that it's just football and all the extra stuff is just a distraction.
What team did you root for growing up?
What is the hardest part of the conditioning programs for NFL teams?
Every team is a little bit different. It's a mental challenge more than anything. Of course, the off-season program is physically demanding but you've gone through that in college, so you know what you're in for. I think it's what you make of it, too. Only you really know how hard you're working and what your potential is in each workout.