In the wake of the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft, there are many heroic stories surfacing. Athletes coming out of poverty, disability, remorse or broken homes to find success on the gridiron. This is why we love sports. Anyone, regardless of where they grew up, has the chance to make their mark. In these two articles, the seven NFL draft hopefuls with the most inspiring stories will be discussed.
The Most Compelling Stories to Watch for in the 2019 NFL Draft
Kaleb McGary: Foreclosures, RV’s and House Fires
As Kaleb McGary stated himself, his life story is “basically a country song” (If you want to hear the short interview, listen here). During the 2008 recession, his family lost their farm to foreclosure. Following that, McGary’s father was involved in a work accident and diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Without good credit or income, his family resorted to living out of an RV on his grandparents yard. Living in his grandparents house was not an option. McGary explained that 60 years of hoarding made the home unlivable. So, there he was, spending his final years of high school living out of an RV with his siblings and his parents.
However, McGary has made the most of his opportunities. The Washington right-tackle earned first team All-Pac-12 honors in three consecutive years. He also tested extremely well athletically. McGary recorded a 5.05 (84th-percentile) 40-yard dash, a 97.5 (86th-percentile) Speed Score, a 112.5 (93rd-percentile) Burst Score, and a 12.24 (70th-percentile) Agility Score. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com gave McGary a round one-two projection. Additionally, WalterFootball ranks Kaleb McGary as the sixth best offensive tackle entering the 2019 NFL Draft. Things have been looking up for McGary since his time living in an RV.
Unfortunately, there is more to his family’s living situation. After his parents had finally cleared out livable space for themselves in the house, one of the RVs caught fire, burned down, and took half of the house with it. Even with a GoFundMe to help pay for the costs, McGary said that labor and repairs are now at a stand still. Home projects are far more expensive than he would have thought. With McGary’s high draft odds, he could easily become another athlete that takes care of his parents and siblings. Look for him to raise his family out of poverty and into a stable home.
Chandler Brewer: Strength in the Face of Invasion
Cancer is nothing to mess with. Almost everyone either has gone through a battle with cancer or knows someone who has. Regardless of the treatment chosen, cancer has a way of taking the best parts away from the host. However, sometimes cancer uncovers warriors.
This is the case of Chandler Brewer, offensive lineman for Middle Tennessee State University. Just before his senior season, in July of 2018, Brewer was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The cancer surfaced in his left knee and he kept it secret, except from staff and family. Brewer was, according to ProFootballFocus, the University’s highest-graded returning player. His play would have been missed.
But, with permission from his doctor, he suited up to play. What’s impressive is that, despite six weeks of radiation mid-season, Brewer remained strong. He played all 14 games, averaged 67 snaps per game and only allowed two sacks on over 450 pass attempts. ProFootballFocus named Brewer on their Conference USA team of the week three times and their national team once. In addition, Brewer earned First-Team All Conference USA Honors.
After the season, Chandler came out to the public and he’s had to disclose his cancer to every NFL team or scout of interest.
Taking a chance on a player battling cancer is a bold move. But, the NFL’s offensive lines become depleted each and every season. Many teams look for depth by converting tight ends, defensive lineman or even athletes from other sports. So, taking a risk on a highly graded warrior like Brewer in the 2019 NFL Draft is a quality choice.
Christian Wilkins: Tragedy, Loss and Courage
The story of Christian Wilkins, Clemson defensive tackle, is one of great loss and greater courage. When Wilkins was just 15 years old, his grandfather, Eurie Stamps Sr. was tragically killed by a SWAT team on a raid. During the raid, in which SWAT were not after Stamps, he was killed by an accidental discharge of a weapon while he was lying face down on the ground. To all those opposing Colin Kaepernick’s ideals, remember that this is the kind of needless violence he is trying to prevent.
Anyway, Stamps was an incredible father-figure for Wilkins. He split time between his stepfather’s and Stamps’ house. Stamps was a local icon, involved in the community and beloved by many. For many, this would be an end to high aspirations. However, after a switch to Suffield Academy, Wilkins found joy and success in athletics and activities. He became well known for his affable and giving lifestyle at high school. Wilkins even acted as the junior-varsity’s “water guy”. It speaks volumes to his character.
Modeling his life around the example Stamps set for him, Wilkins chose the number 42 to honor Stamps at Clemson. Stamps was born in 1942 and Wilkins garnered plenty of honor to that number. Wilkins earned a degree from Clemson in two and a half years and was awarded the 2018 William V. Campbell Trophy for outstanding community, academic and on-field performance. Lance Zierlein from NFL.com gave Wilkins a round-one projection for the 2019 NFL Draft. Additionally, ProFootballFocus put their claim on his NFL success.
For more on Christian Wilkins and his life after Stamps, read here.
Emanuel Hall: Injuries, Death and Athleticism
2018 was not kind to Emanuel Hall. The Missouri wide receiver only played eight games in his senior season. A nagging groin injury sidelined him multiple times. For a “one-trick pony” speedster, a leg injury is quite serious. However, a much larger obstacle came on October 11th of 2018. While still rehabbing from his groin injury, Hall learned that his father had unexpectedly passed away.
“This has been the toughest year of my life,” Hall said.
“At the end of the day,” he said, “you’ve still got to take care of your business, because the world doesn’t stop.”
Hall’s words ring true to those that have lost a loved one and persevered through the pain. Through every battle and knockdown, every person had the chance to fight. Hall did just that. He returned to football after dealing with both his groin injury and his father’s funeral with four receptions, 77 yards and a touchdown. Through the pain and recoveries, Hall has shown that, when on the field, he makes splash plays.
Athletically, Emanuel Hall is special. According to PlayerProfiler.com, Hall’s profile includes:
- 4.39 (95th-percentile) 40-yard dash
- 109.7 (89th-percentile) Speed Score
- 144.5 (99th-percentile) Burst Score
- 35.7% (69th-percentile) College Dominator, 22.4 (97th-percentile) College YPR
In college, Hall used that elite athleticism to win on deep routes. In just 18 games his junior and senior season, Hall amassed 1,645 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns on a mere 70 receptions. He has to overcome his perception as a “one-trick pony”, but Hall has a good chance to become an NFL starter. He showed perseverance and grit through his injury and tragedy-laden senior season. Now he must show that in gaining success in a league that is faster and more versatile.
For more, check out NFL Draft 2019: Tears, Tragedy, and Triumph of Draft Picks Part 2