Asa Jackson got a draft-day surprise, while everything went as expected for Jerome Long.
Long, a former Morro Bay High standout and senior defensive lineman from San Diego State, was taken by one of two teams he expected in the final round of the NFL Draft on Saturday, an ultra rare occasion for a San Luis Obispo County high school product.
Jackson, a Cal Poly senior cornerback, got a phone call from a team he thought would draft him only to fall to another he never suspected.
The Atlanta Falcons seemed enamored with Jackson throughout the draft process and reached out to the former Sacramento Christian Brothers High star as their second of two fifth-round picks approached.
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“This whole process, I thought it was going to be Atlanta,” Jackson said.
“Atlanta called me and told me they were going to draft me a couple picks before that pick.
“They really called me and told me, ‘We’re about to make you a Falcon. Are you ready?’ I was outside at the time. When I walked back inside and looked at the screen, they picked Jonathan Massaquoi, the defensive end from Troy State.”
Jackson was snatched by the Baltimore Ravens five picks later with the 169th overall selection.
Though Jackson was unaware of Baltimore’s interest in him, new Ravens linebackers coach Don Martindale had been having phone conversations with new Mustangs defensive backs coach Randy Hanson about Jackson this week, Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh said.
Martindale and Hanson coached together on the Oakland Raiders’ staff a few years ago, and now Jackson is going to join the stout defense of the Ravens.
“His intensity will match the kind that they like to play with,” Walsh said. “They’re a fiery defensive football team, and when you see Asa on Saturday night and you see his eyeballs, he’s into it. So, I think they’re going to like his intensity as well as his athleticism.
“He could have an 8- to 10-year career as a nickel guy, and he can return.”
Said Jackson: “Being a fifth-round pick for a team like that, they’re probably looking at me more as a return specialist, but I’m really fine with that, and I’ll get on the field at corner pretty soon after that I’m sure.”
A former high school quarterback, Jackson averaged 18 yards per punt return last season and 25.6 yards per kick return. He had two interceptions and returned both of those for touchdowns, including one for more than 100 yards.
After ranking second on the Aztecs with career highs of 73 tackles, eight tackles for loss and five sacks, Long was taken by the Kansas City Chiefs with the 11th pick in the seventh round. It was Kansas City’s first of two seventh-round picks, and Long was the 218th overall selection.
The Jacksonville Jaguars were the other team to schedule a private meeting with Long during the draft evaluation process.
Long already broke barriers when he signed with San Diego State in 2008. Being a former Pirates player drafted to the NFL brings him even greater distinction in his former hometown.
But it really hasn’t happened all that often anywhere else in San Luis Obispo County either.
Former Oregon State linebacker Bryan Jones of Arroyo Grande was drafted in the fifth round by the Dolphins in 1999. Previously, former Cal Poly defensive tackle Paul Sverchek of San Luis Obispo High was drafted in the eighth round by the Minnesota Vikings in 1984. Several others have been undrafted free agents.
“It’s awesome,” Long said of being a drafted local high school player. “I don’t really think of it from that aspect that much, but just to imagine coming back home, it would be quite an experience.”
A 6-foot-5, 290-pound lineman that could play tackle or end for the Chiefs, Long has improved by leaps and bounds every season dating back to his freshman year at Morro Bay. Moreover, he was a state-placing heavyweight wrestler for the Pirates.
“Character-wise, you can’t have a better representative,” said former Pirates wrestling coach Michael Aanearud, who also coached Long in the lower levels of high school football. “He’s got a great work ethic, and he trusts in his coaches and works hard to give them everything he’s got.”