Since 1990 only 19 Division III college football players have been drafted into the National Football League.
Buffalo State offensive lineman Brandon Lathrop is hoping to be the next.
"If you're good enough, they'll find you." That was the message of former D-III and Bills running back Fred Jackson when he spoke to the Bengals last February. It's one the Kenmore native learned firsthand, earning an invite as a junior to workout at the University at Buffalo's pro day last spring.
"It was the coolest feeling," he said. "A lot of people would kill to be in that position being from Division III. It was one of the most exciting moments in my life."
"Coming into my last year with possibility of having a career after this, changed my mindset."
After a strong senior season, the 6'5", 305 pound offensive lineman was one of two D-III players invited to play in the Tropic Bowl, an all-star game for some of the top seniors in the country, to battle against the SEC, ACC Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac 12.
"On the flight down there I was thinking I'm out my league here," he said. "When we first did a couple of drills I realized right then and there that I could play with those guys and it carried over into the rest of the weekend."
"Down there with those guys, was different than playing on Saturday's with local Division III colleges in New York State. Instead of one or two guys being my size, it went to all 11 guys on the field being my size. It was a lot of fun."
Now he's hoping to continue to battle some of those same players on Sundays, inspired by Ali Marpet, a 2nd round selection out of DIII Hobart, and Jackson.
"Seeing what those guys did in the Division III level, it's awesome. Seeing those guys do it, it's a confidence booster."