Auburn, Ala.—Thursday night the annual NFL Draft will get underway at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. With the second and third rounds on Friday and rounds four through seven on Saturday, it will be a long and grueling process for many of the former Auburn Tigers hoping to get a shot to live out their pro football dreams.
The first Auburn name called will in all likelihood be Corey Lemonier. Declaring early for the draft following his junior season, Lemonier played defensive end in the Tigers’ 4-3 defensive scheme and has the ability to rush the passer off the edge.
Not ideal in size for the NFL defensive line, however, Lemonier is likely headed for the outside linebacker position on the next level. Because of that he’s likely to be selected in day two of the draft in either the late second or third round.
After Lemonier, Auburn’s draft prospects are very much up in the air with Onterio McCalebb probably the next draft prospect in the class and guys like Philip Lutzenkirchen, Emory Blake and Daren Bates hoping to get a shot either late in the draft or via free agency.
As for McCalebb, the speedy runner and key member of Auburn’s offense the last four seasons is just hoping to get a chance to show what he can do for a team in the NFL because of his lack of size.
After a strong showing at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis when he ran 4.34 seconds in the 40-yard dash, McCalebb decided to take another opportunity to impress scouts by taking part in Auburn’s Pro Day on campus.
Again running very impressively with a 40 time of 4.29 seconds on March 5, McCalebb proved that his combine time wasn't a fluke. Working out at running back, wide receiver and even some defensive back, he hoped to show the scout that he is a competitor.
Onterio McCalebb shows his speed at Auburn's Pro Day.
Lacking the size many pro teams want at just 5-10, 169 pounds, McCalebb says he knows heart and desire is what teams want to see out of him and that hopefully it will pay off with an opportunity to play on Sundays.
“I just wanted to show them that every time I do something I can get better at it,” McCalebb says. “That’s what I did. I didn’t bench at the combine, but I did here at Auburn. For my size 10 reps was pretty awesome for my size. There were guys that weigh 100 pounds more than me that didn’t do it that many times.
"It’s just a blessing for me to be able to come back to Auburn and show what I can do because I just love the game," McCalebb tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "The only thing I ask for is the opportunity to get on the field and play.”
Onterio McCalebb was a major contributor for four years at Auburn, including his team's run to an unbeaten 2010 season.
The running back finished his collegiate career with 4,566 all-purpose yards, the fourth best total in Auburn history. He finished ninth on Auburn's all-time rushing list with 2,586 yards. His 620 receiving yards are the fourth most by an Auburn running back and he ranks fifth in AU history in kickoff return yards wiht 1,360.
Since competing in his Auburn pro day, McCalebb has worked out for several NFL teams, including the Detroit Lions. Hoping to make a team as a third-down back, a kick returner and possibly as a slot wide receiver, McCalebb says he is excited about the opportunity he has been given and is ready to leave his mark in the NFL.
“It has just been a blessing for me to get the opportunity to go play on the next level,” he points out. “It has been awesome. I visited with the Detroit Lions and met with the coaches and general manager. I also talked with the offensive coordinator. I met all the criteria they are looking for in the speed back they want. I think the visit was excellent. I liked them a lot. Right now though I really don’t ask where I’m going to be drafted, I’m just waiting on that day to come. I just want a phone call I can answer.”
No matter where the road takes him, McCalebb will always been a player who Auburn fans look at with respect. Making his way to the AU campus after being forced to go to Hargrave Military School after high school to take care of his academic situation so he could enroll at Auburn, the running back has persevered through more obstacles than most have to deal with in a lifetime.
Always told he was too small or that he couldn't make it academically, McCalebb made it on his own at times even with a mom that was dealing with drug dependency. Forced at times to live with teammates while at Fort Meade, Fla., High, McCalebb has never wavered in his goals to earn a college degree and play professional football.
Now on the verge of making his dream a reality, McCalebb says the motivation continues for him and it will keep driving him to be successful.
Onterio McCalebb has the speed and toughness to help an NFL team, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said on Wednesday.
“It means a lot to me,” he says. “Coming from my background people ask me how I even made it this far. I just let that be my motivation and my mom and everything I went through. I let that be my motivation so one day I can help my mom get off the streets.
“When I was a freshman it used to get to me a lot,” McCalebb adds. “They would say, ‘he’s not going to make it out of high school’ and then I went to Hargrave. They said I would go there and quit. It seems like every time something happens for me I have to turn around and prove somebody wrong.
"That’s what I’m going to continue to do," he adds. "I know I have people out there in the world, and even back at home, that don’t want to see me make it in the NFL. I just have to keep praying and proving them wrong like I have every time.”
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