Rod Sweeting gave Luella’s football program, and its former coach Paul Burgdorf, something to smile about.
But really, that smile can extend into the entire Southern Crescent.
Sweeting recently made the 53-man roster for the New Orleans Saints. Yes, that same Saints team that Atlanta Falcons fans love to hate — the same Saints team that Atlanta, ironically, will open its season against Sunday.
So, okay. Let’s rephrase. Aside from the fact that Sweeting, a Luella High and Georgia Tech grad, is starting his NFL career with the Falcons bitter rival, Sweeting gave everyone in the area something to smile about.
It’s just the latest form of proof, that Southern Crescent football talent is nothing to sneeze at.
Sweeting became the fifth player originating out of the two-county area to find his way onto an NFL roster. He joins former Lovejoy running back Tashard Choice (Buffalo Bills), former Riverdale standout offensive lineman Cordy Glenn (Buffalo), ex North Clayton star Morgan Burnett (Green Bay) and Jonesboro graduate Harry Douglas (Atlanta).
Kyle Love, also a graduate of North Clayton, had been grabbed by the New England Patriots off of waivers, but was released September 1. Also, last time I talked with former Henry County High wideout, Jamal Rashad-Patterson, the Stanford grad was trying to get on with the San Francisco 49ers.
Not sure if he made it or not, but the fact that he had come that far is still a good sign of the talent that our area produces.
Unless Patterson has landed somewhere unbeknownst to me, is currently the only player on an NFL roster who has been the product of a Henry County school. But you’ve just got to believe that more are on the way.
Let’s see how guys like Isaac Rochell and Keyante Green (both graduates of Eagle’s Landing Christian’s class of 2013 do with their college careers at Notre Dame and Purdue, respectively. Former Jonesboro standouts Cameron Sutton and Taurean Ferguson are freshman athletes at Tennessee and Vanderbilt, that we may be talking about in the next three years or so.
Same for a guy like Locust Grove’s Cortez McDowell who’s also headed to Tennessee next year, or the former Lovejoy back who broke all of Choice’s school records, Travis Custis.
Another North Clayton product, Amarlo Herrera, a Georgia Bulldogs linebacker, seems to be doing well to carve out an NFL future. And there are others.
But Sweeting is the latest. And Burgdorf, now head coach at McDonough’s Union Grove High, couldn’t be happier.
“I’m very pleased and happy for him,” Burgdorf said. “But I’m not surprised.”
That’s not only because Burgdorf got the chance to know the kind of kid he was coaching while at Luella, but I believe part of it is also because Burgdorf knows the steadily rising quality of the kind of athletes this area is producing.
Some statistics estimate that only about seven percent of all NFL Draft eligible players actually find their way to a pro team’s roster. And even fewer have any success at experiencing a career with any longevity.
A sobering reminder of these facts, I think is needed, because with so much exhaustive access we have to football, and the coverage of its teams and stars, I think we have lost a little healthy awe of exactly how good the athletes who make it really are.
Reclaiming some of that awe should help us learn to appreciate even more, the quality of football our area has been offering and likely will continue to provide.
Gabriel Stovall covers sports for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald newspapers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @GabrielStovall1.