Having starred at Coyle-Cassidy High School in Taunton, Mass., he earned a scholarship to Northeastern University. But after the 2009 season, the program was cut, putting him in a tough spot.
Would he transfer to finish his football career and keep his NFL dreams alive? Or stay at Northeastern to get his degree?
As it turned out, Niland took advantage of a plan that allowed him to transfer to UMass so he could play the 2010 season, before transferring back to Northeastern so he could finish his business administration degree this spring.
Niland measured 6-foot-4 and weighed 304 pounds at pro day, which is a solid physical makeup for an NFL hopeful on the line. He felt he ran well, and to the casual observer, he looked competitive in drills led by Scarnecchia and Giants offensive line coach Pat Flaherty that tested hip flexibility, hip explosion, change of direction and run- and pass-blocking skills.
"Hopefully maybe today will get the attention of some of the scouts, and they can go back to the filmwork and tape, and maybe I can sneak into the later rounds," said Niland, who plans to attend UMass' pro day on Friday. "That would be the best-case scenario. If not, we'll see what happens with the NFL lockout. One way or another, I just want to make a camp."
A player like Niland, who faces longer odds to be drafted, would be hurt by a lockout because NFL teams won't be allowed to sign undrafted players.