Emmanuel Dieke, a former standout at North Clayton High and Georgia Tech, has a free agent deal with the New York Giants. (Special Photo)
When Lavelle Westbrooks finally got a call from an NFL team, he was surrounded by family at their home in Riverdale.
Moments later, Westbrooks’ name was called as the 37th pick in the seventh round of the NFL Draft on Saturday afternoon.
He finally realized his dream of getting a shot at playing professional football when the Cincinnati Bengals chose the former Riverdale High and Georgia Southern defensive back.
Westbrooks was the only area player taken in the seven-round draft. He is the second former Riverdale player in the last four years to be drafted.
“I feel great, I am very blessed and excited to know where I am going to play football,” said Westbooks, a former four-year starter at both cornerback and safety at Georgia Southern. “I wasn’t anxious today, but the Bengals were the first team I met with and after all this time, they chose me. I spoke to Darius (Eubanks) today and he told me that we’re in a very physical conference. I want to go up there, play ball and show them what I can do.”
Westbrooks was tabbed by Fox Sports as the best cover corner during the Reese’s Senior Bowl week this past January. He started in 41 of his 49 career games as an Eagle and was honored by Phil Steele Publications as a second team All-American as a senior.
In addition to the Senior Bowl, Westbrooks was also an NFL Combine invitee.
“He has great ability around the receiver,” Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis said. “He’s been very, very instinctive. He has a chance to come in here and compete for one of our cornerback spots and continue to give us some youth and depth there.”
Westbrooks will waste no time getting started with his pro career. He received his itinerary and will arrive in Cincinnati early this week to meet team personnel. Westbrooks was a second-team All-Southern Conference pick by both coaches and media after leading the league in passes defended for most of the 2013 season.
Westbrooks was the second Georgia Southern player to be drafted. The last time two Eagles were taken in the NFL Draft was 1987 when Tracy Ham, drafted as a running back (9th round), and defensive end Fred Stokes (12th round) were both selected by the Los Angeles Rams. Safety J.J. Wilcox was the last Georgia Southern defensive back selected in the NFL Draft, the 80th pick overall in 2013.
Three other former players from the area signed free agent deals immediately after the draft ended.
Former Mundy’s Mill defensive back Kimario McFadden signed a free agent tryout with the Atlanta Falcons. The former South Carolina State safety was an all-conference performer the last two seasons for the Bulldogs, who competed on the Football Championship Subdivision.
Hakeem Smith, who started at Riverdale High before an all-conference career at Louisville, will take a chance to make the Tennessee Titans roster. Smith competed in the East-West Shrine Bowl in January.
Emmanuel Dieke, a former defensive tackle at Georgia Tech and North Clayton, was signed by the New York Giants.