STATESBORO — Georgia Southern defensive backs coach Orlando Mitjans can read off an impressive list of players that he has coached that have played in the NFL.
So when Mitjans mentions current Eagles cornerback Lavelle Westbrooks in the same breath as some current professional athletes, one has to take notice.
Westbrooks, a former standout at Riverdale High, is playing in his final college game for the Eagles as they take on the Florida Gators today at 2 p.m. at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field in Gainesville.
“I have some mixed emotions about the game,” Westbrooks said. “It is all coming to an end for me here at Georgia Southern. I want to go out there and lay it all on the line. I’m about to close one chapter of my life, and get ready to open another.”
And he is hoping that chapter includes a shot at playing in the NFL.
Coming into Saturday’s game, Westbrooks has 25 tackles and two interceptions with six pass break-ups.
Both of those interceptions came in the Eagles’ win over Western Carolina, which was attended by several NFL scouts. At 6-feet and 192 pounds, the four-year starter has the size that the pros are looking for.
“Levelle is having a real good senior season,” Mitjans said. “He is doing all the things that it takes to be a leader for our young guys. He is showing them the proper way to practice and how to get better.”
This has been a season of transition for the Georgia Southern program, which has been a powerhouse in the NCAA Football Championship Series division (formerly Div. I-AA). The Eagles will move to the Football Bowl Series next season as a member of the Sun Belt Conference.
In its history, Georgia Southern has won six national championships on the FCS level.
“I’m happy that I have been a part of one of the best programs in the country,” Westbrooks said. “There is a lot of tradition and pride in this program.”
Westbrooks said he is not nervous about going up against Florida, because Georgia Southern annually plays a SEC school during the season. He said he is looking forward to the challenge, and the opportunity to play in front of a large crowd in his final collegiate game.
“We have played in this situation before so we won’t be in awe of them,” Westbrooks said. “You are playing against one of those top programs in front of a big crowd. It should be exciting for us.”
Westbrooks is not the only former Riverdale player that could be headed to the NFL next season. Former teammate, and current Louisville senior, Hakeem Smith is listed as one of the top safeties in the country by several pre-draft analysts. Smith graduated from Riverdale in 2009 while Westbrooks is a ’10 graduate.
“I talk to Hakeem now and then,” Westbrooks said. “Hopefully, if the Lord is willing, we can both play in the NFL. It would be something positive for Riverdale.”