For Oklahoma’s Neville Gallimore, myth becomes reality with NFL dream

Oklahoma defensive tackle Neville Gallimore celebrates with the Big 12 Championship trophy.
Oklahoma defensive tackle Neville Gallimore celebrates the Sooners’ win in the Big 12 championship game in December.
(Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)

The Times examines the top prospects ahead of the NFL draft, to be held April 23-25.

The hulking, 300-pounder crouched into a stance and dug three fingers into the turf. Neville Gallimore never actually expected to make it to this point. The son of Jamaican farmers, who grew up in Canada, his love of football arrived by accident at age 11. But now, here he was, on the cusp of the NFL, readying for a 40-yard dash, prepared to show the football world he belonged.

“If you had told me this six or seven years ago,” Gallimore said, “I’d have said you were crazy.”


Indeed, he’d taken a stranger path than most to the NFL scouting combine. In a country where consistent four-down football is rare at the high school level, the Ottawa native wound up at Canada Prep Academy, 20 minutes from the border, in hopes of catching the attention of American college football programs. It didn’t take long, with 30 schools offering scholarships.

Five years later, the Oklahoma product exploded out of his stance in Indianapolis. This time, as he barreled down the line, it took only 4.79 seconds for 32 NFL teams to notice.

At 304 pounds, it was a near-unprecedented pace for a 40-yard sprint. In the 15 years since the NFL began keeping track of such rates, only two other players pushing 300 pounds have registered faster 40 times.

The Times examines the top prospects ahead of the 2020 NFL draft, to be held April 23-25.

April 17, 2020

For Gallimore, it wasn’t even the fastest time he’d run on record.

At Oklahoma, tales of his strength and athleticism bordered on myth. As a senior, he bench-pressed 500 pounds, cleaned 400, and squatted 800, all while running a recorded 4.76 40 that coaches could barely believe. It’s not a stretch to say that Gallimore was one of college football’s most freakish players last season.

As he enters the draft, the same superlatives apply. His motor is relentless, coupled with elite pursuit skills with which, more than once, he chased down running backs from 20-plus yards away. His hands are violent and powerful, making him a force in the interior run game.


But it’s his uncommon speed, while pushing 300 pounds, that defines his game. It’s not often one can say that about a defensive tackle, but Gallimore moves like a linebacker in space and accelerates like an edge rusher when faced with a defender. That combination was enough to force most Big 12 teams to double- and sometimes even triple-team him a season ago.

His raw athleticism has certainly served him well over four years at Oklahoma, where he racked up 147 tackles and 8½ total sacks over four seasons. At the NFL level, it’s going to take more than just speed and strength for him to have the same impact.

Staying for his senior season at Auburn and the birth of his son has helped defensive lineman Derrick Brown grow into a top NFL draft prospect.

April 13, 2020

The fact that a Canadian defensive tackle might make any impression at all in the NFL is still somewhat of a shock to Gallimore.

“It’s like it doesn’t make sense,” Gallimore said. “It’s like, how? What’s happening? But what I tell other guys is that if you really love this game and you are really passionate ... you’d be surprised how dreams can unfold.”

He hopes his story can help encourage others outside of the U.S. to fight for their own football futures. Of course, it doesn’t hurt if they’re freakishly fast for their size.

“I just hope the game evolves in the sense that coaches and scouts are willing to go wherever they have to go to find the talent,” Gallimore said. “I’m speaking for the kids who have a dream and grow up watching football, grow up having that passion, and have that talent and the work ethic. That if you have the desire to play you won’t have to go out of your way to get found, they’ll come find you.”