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 graduate Kristjan Sokoli, signing him to their to their practice squad, 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, etc. 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 BHS 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 his Bengal career, 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 out of 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 8 special team plays during the game. Those plays may not have been flashy but they made Kristjan Sokoli the first Albanian born player in NFL history. After being waived by the Seahawks prior to the 2016 season, Sokoli latched on with the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints before the Giants came calling. TAPinto Bloomfield reached out to Kristjan to learn more about his exciting journey from Foley Field to NFL;
What was your greatest memory of playing at BHS?
"I don't know if I can pick one but I enjoyed playing football for guys like Coach Carter and Zach Deerwater. I also really enjoyed throwing the discus and shot put with Emeka Ndichie as my throwing partner. Two moments that stick out in both, 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 with Emeka was really cool. I really enjoyed working with Jenkins and Howie in the spring too."
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 team in my time away. That would be cool"
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 for each workout."
Now that Kristjan Sokoli is a local again, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for him around town. At 6'4" and nearly 300 lbs he shouldn't be too hard to find. Hopefully, the big man can be a key component of the Giants 2018 season and can help bring them back to the playoffs.