USC’s Drake London tries to silence his NFL draft doubters with some fancy footwork
His stock was soaring, his future stardom seemingly assured, when last October a defender rolled over Drake London’s right ankle as he fell into the end zone. All of a sudden, everything was in doubt.
But nearly six months later, with the NFL draft looming, only a few of those questions linger, the most pertinent of which the receiver set out to answer Friday.
A sideline of scouts, coaches and executives from 12 NFL teams watched closely from the practice field at USC as London ran routes, caught passes and showcased footwork Friday. Many on hand represented teams with picks in the top half of the first round, where many have pegged the USC receiver to be selected.
Most of those teams probably would’ve preferred to see more, but London chose not to run a 40-yard dash or take part in any other speed testing, avoiding the risk that comes with running this late in the process.
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“You know, everybody has six, eight weeks, a couple months to really train for that, whether it’s broad jump, vertical, all of that,” London said. “I was just trying to get back running at the end of the day. The tape is out there. You’ve seen it.”
What no one had seen until Friday was London cut on that surgically repaired right ankle. He was still recovering during the NFL Scouting Combine in February. He missed USC’s Pro Day last month and had to delay his own by 10 days because of a mild hamstring strain.
But London was front and center Friday. Cones for footwork drills were set up directly in front of the sideline, and London had no trouble deftly cutting between them, chopping his feet violently, pushing off his ankle without problem. The footwork drills lasted just a few minutes, but still seemed enough to put any remaining doubters at ease.
“I was just trying to complete the workout,” London said, “trying to showcase that I’m back to where I was at, if not even better.”
Many wondered whether that would be possible in late October, when he lay crumpled on the Coliseum turf with tears in his eyes. In the following weeks, he could barely walk, let alone cut on a dime. He hobbled for a while on crutches and wore a boot after surgery. It wasn’t until a week before the Combine that London finally could jog on a treadmill.
Prognosticators have picked apart his profile in the meantime. Most of their questions have centered on London’s speed and ability to separate from NFL defensive backs.
London shrugged away those suggestions Friday. So did T.J. Houshmandzadeh, the former Pro Bowl receiver who has been training London in recent months. Had he run a 40-yard dash Friday, Houshmandzadeh said he believes London would have landed somewhere between a high 4.4 and a 4.53.
“You don’t see guys with his size move the way that he moves,” Houshmandzadeh said. “He moves like a little guy, but he’s a big guy. That’s rare.”
It’s that unique skillset that could send London soaring into the top 10, perhaps even as the top receiver drafted. Alleviating concerns about his ankle should help that standing.
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He’ll get the chance to answer those other questions in due time but with his ankle healed and his Pro Day now behind him, there’s no doubt what comes next.
“I mean, I’ve been dreaming about this ever since I was a little kid,” London said. “When they tell you something to write, what do you want to be when you’re older? It wasn’t a superhero, it wasn’t a garbage man or a fireman or anything like that. It was NFL or NBA. I wanted to be in the league.
“So the dream is happening and I just can’t wait for it.”
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