From Nasa to the NFL: Wainwright follows dream

  • Reaching for the stars: Keith Wainwright Jr put aside his disappointment over injury ruining his chance of being drafted in the NFL by completing a master’s degree in engineering, and landing a position at Nasa. But he wants to give the pigskin another go and has what amounts to a trial next month (Photograph supplied)

Nasa engineer Keith Wainwright Jr is looking forward to lift-off of a potentially new exciting career he has longed for.

The 26-year-old Bermudian has been invited to participate next month in the Fall Showcase in Miami, Florida, where he hopes to catch the eye of National Football League scouts and make a giant step towards fulfilling his lifelong dream of showcasing his talents at that level.

“Only 180 players get invited, so I was blessed to get an invitation to go,” Wainwright told The Royal Gazette.

The Fall Showcase, to be held from November 6 to 9, is part of the Spring League, which is an elite development league and scouting event for professional football talent, and provides an additional opportunity for players to be evaluated.

All participating teams will train and play their games in one central location, allowing NFL scouts, general managers and player personnel directors with an opportunity to evaluate players in one setting. Players are also evaluated by the CFL and other professional leagues.

“This is like my last real opportunity to show what I have and hopefully I get some kind of offer or opportunity to play somewhere else,” Wainwright added.

The 6ft 245lb linebacker, who is a free agent, impressed playing in the Rivals Professional Football League last season with the Miami Blaze, who are owned by Quentin Hines, the former New England Patriots running back.

He was his team’s leading tackler and helped to take them to the championship game, which they lost 30-24 to the Atlantic Sharks.

The Nasa systems safety engineer had hoped to take part in trials for NFL franchise Denver Broncos this summer but any chance of that happening was dashed when he broke his foot playing basketball.

It was a crushing blow to Wainwright’s NFL aspirations.

“I was depressed and going through a lot of different things,” he recalled. “But I had a lot of family support and prayed and prayed, and it [the invite to Fall Showcase] kind of came through.

“I was kind of self-motivated, and once you have a vision or dream, nothing really stops it but yourself, so I kept on pushing it.”

Wainwright also has experience playing college football at Alabama A&M University, between 2011 and 2014.

“Football on the collegiate level was very challenging because you never had time to really do anything else,” he said.

The son of former Southampton Rangers cricketer Keith Wainwright took an interest in American football after moving to the United States with his mother in 1999.

One of the biggest influences on his career is former New York Giants and Super Bowl-winning linebacker Antonio Pierce, whose father is Bermudian and is also a friend of the family.

“Antonio Pierce was one of my inspirations growing up and when I found out my father knew his parents, I was inspired to keep pushing because he kind of broke the wall down for other Bermudians to step through,” Wainwright said.

“He is one of the top linebackers to ever play the game and it wasn’t a coincidence he played the same position I play.”

Wainwright earned a master’s and an undergraduate in engineering at Alabama A&M which led to employment at Nasa as well as a stint at Lockheed Martin.

While the father of two enjoys his present profession, he believes that it’s his destiny to play in the NFL.

“I love what I do and Nasa is a great company,” he said. “But it’s been a lifelong dream of mine to play in the NFL.

“Engineering is something I am good at and something I believe was a stepping stone for me to go to the next level because I got my master’s and [undergraduate degree] in engineering.

“I believe that people get their career confused with their destiny when God basically is trying to get your career as a stepping stone for your destiny.”