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New OT Akram Elnagmi Can Chase His Football Dreams in Pittsburgh

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Pitt offensive tackle commit Akram Elnagmi

Akram Elnagmi had never put on pads before he tried out for the NFL Academy in 2022. He had watched some football clips on YouTube, but that was about it. He was going almost solely off the word of his brother Ezzat.

The younger Elnagmi was a rugby player, and while the elder Elnagmi didn’t tell his brother to stop playing rugby, he did say to just give football — American football, that is — a try. So, he did.

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A nervous Elnagmi went to the tryout, competed in the combine and worked the offensive line drills. He showcased the ability to move (especially well at 6-foot-6, 300 pounds) and to be taught. It went well. And he was invited to join the NFL Academy in Loughborough, which is in central England.

Two years later, he’s the newest Pitt Panther. It’s been a crazy journey.

“It means a lot,” Elnagmi told Pittsburgh Sports Now. “It’s definitely a testament to my hard work because I’ve always had the size, but the work ethic has been high since day one. It was just about doing the right things at the right times to get me in that position. Obviously, I was blessed with an offer from Eastern Michigan, and that’s something I’ll remember because that was my first offer ever from any school. So, I still hold it very close to my heart, but to get the opportunity to play at an even bigger level is definitely something special to me, and I will not take it for granted.”

Elnagmi, who was a rugby player at the Bristol Grammar School growing up, committed to Eastern Michigan in May. But the Pitt coaching staff hit him up not long after.

He received a DM on X (formerly known as Twitter) from the Pitt coaching staff not long after he committed to EMU. It was after the NFL Academy’s spring season, so there were two seasons of tape available. Jeremy Darveau checked it out, liked what he saw and invited Elnagmi on an official visit.

And on the official visit, during a sit-down talk with Pat Narduzzi, he received an offer from the Panthers. And decided to flip his commitment.

“Honestly, it was seeing how coach Narduzzi and the coaching staff interacted with all the players,” Elnagmi said. “It really felt like it was a strong bond, and I definitely see them winning a national championship in the coming years.

Elnagmi is an intriguing prospect. He’s huge, with a 7-foot wingspan, but he’s raw. He didn’t start playing football until he was well into his teenage years, so he’s behind in that regard when it comes to a traditional American recruit, but the tools are evident. Darveau certainly sees what could be with Elnagmi.

“He likes me because there’s a lot of potential,” Elnagmi said. “Obviously, I haven’t been playing for too long, but my physical attributes and my ability to learn are definitely something that I think he’s keen on working with. The effort I’ve made in the last two years has been, I’d say, incredible. So, you know, what I can do in a four-year program, with everything there can be, can be pretty spectacular.”

The rugby background is certainly something that can translate to the NFL. It’s happened before. Look at Philadelphia Eagles star Jordan Mailata. The physicality and contact in rugby, driving opposing players back into large piles, is similar to running blocking. It’s about moving an opponent from Point A to Point B.

The physicality in rugby is serious, but Elnagmi has learned it’s at a different level on the gridiron.

“Obviously, as an offensive lineman, you’re pretty much hitting somebody every single play,” Elnagmi said. “So, rugby is like, you have to wait to get the ball. When you’re on defense, you just have to make the tackle. But, I feel like the hits are definitely harder in American football as well.”

He’s two years into his American football journey now, and the kid who has never put on pads before his tryout is almost unrecognizable. He’s approached his journey with a certain mindset. It’s not about where he is today, it’s about where he’ll be in two or three or four years. He’s realistic in his expectations.

Elnagmi has certainly come a long way since he first donned pads in 2022.

“I feel like I’ve become a lot more athletic,” Elnagmi said. “A lot more flexible as well. Like, I couldn’t really get out of my stance when I first started playing, but now moving out my stance has become kind of like second nature. It’s definitely something I’ve been focusing on working a lot in my last two years of development.”

If he had to say he was better in any area yet, it’d be pass protection. He’s huge, with a long wingspan, and he feels like he’s more fundamentally sound. There’s still plenty of room for improvement in run blocking, intending to increase his body control. He wants to be like Detroit Lions star Penei Sewell.

“He’s definitely somebody I’ve kept my eye on since watching his college highlights,” Elnagmi said. “That was definitely something that I really enjoyed doing. Me and my buddy Yaya, actually he’s at Colorado now, we used to watch his highlights. Just model our game after him. He’s definitely a force on the offensive line. Definitely somebody I look up to.”

Elnagmi has six more months left with the NFL Academy, and he’s set the personal goals he’d like to achieve before arriving in the winter of 2025.

It’s a dream come true to have the chance to live out his dreams in Pittsburgh.

“To play at that level, with a professional setup is amazing,” Elmagni said. “I have always dreamed of getting to the NFL, just to meet like year-round NFL players and learn off of them. But to get that experience in college would be something amazing.”

Pitt holds 13 commitments in the class of 2025:

Elnagmi, three-star wide receiver DaMarion Fowlkes (Olney, Md.), three-star tight end Max Hunt (Tampa, Fla.), offensive lineman Shep Turk (Jefferson Hills, Pa.), three-star wide receiver Tony Kinsler (Port Orange, Fla.), three-star wide receiver Bryce Yates (Chesterfield, Va.), three-star running back Ja’Kyrian Turner (Bushnell, Fla.) and three-star quarterback Mason Heintschel (Oregon, Ohio) offensively.

Lee, three-star linebacker Justin Thompson (Olney, Md.), three-star defensive end Julian Anderson (Orlando, Fla.), four-star cornerback Elijah Dotson (Detroit, Mich.) and three-star defensive lineman Trevor Sommers (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) defensively.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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