2 Tigers Eyeing the NFL

Kevin Youngblood

While the Tigers have one more game left in the 2003 season, two players on the team are eyeing a spot on the next level- the National Football League. "It's something I think about a lot," said Youngblood. "I want to be in the game as long as I can. I love the competition."

It's almost every young man's dream.

Playing football for a living. Doing what you love to do and earning a pay check at the same time.

For two Tigers this year, that dream is on the verge of becoming a reality.

Wide receiver Kevin Youngblood and linebacker John Leake are both eyeing this April's NFL Draft, hoping that there names will be called sooner rather than later once the big day arrives.

"It's something I think about a lot," said Youngblood. "I really want to continue my career in the NFL. I want to be in the game as long as I can. I love the competition."

His stats this year were solid, 67 receptions for 833 (12.4/catch) and 2 touchdowns, but at 6-feet, 5-inches tall, the Jacksonville, Florida has already been unfairly stereotyped as a "possession receiver."

Senior wide out Kevin Youngblood brought in 67 catches for 833 yards and 2 touchdowns in 2003.
He's the guy that has good hands, but not necessarily the speed that can get the job done in the professional ranks.

One word of that to Youngblood, and he'll set you straight in a hurry.

"As I watch football on Sundays, I'm like, 'I know I can compete with the best.' Some of the plays you see guys like Randy Moss make, I can imagine myself making those kinds of catches. There are just so many things that I can do out there, I just want to be able to prove that I can do it."

While Youngblood glides effortlessly down the field, his defensive counterpart, linebacker John Leake, wants to get down and dirty at the next level.

The Plano, Texas native was second on the team in tackles in 2003, with 120, including 11 for loss, and 2 sacks.

"I'll probably be playing outside linebacker," said the Plano, Texas native. "At the beginning of the year, I was weighing in at 242 and I ran a 4.41 so that could give me some options."

Leake is also out to shed a stereotype.

"You know, I hear people say that I'm slow, but I'm not slow. People think I run a 4.7. I don't run a 4.7 and I haven't run something like that since early in high school," he said with a laugh. "I'm just anxious to get these combines and show people what I'm all about."

And just like Youngblood is waiting to hear from the college all-star games, Leake too is also waiting on "the phone call."

Senior LB John Leake
"Supposedly I'm going to be the next guy they invite to the East-West Shrine Bowl game, I think that one is in San Francisco," said Leake. "If I get invited to it, I have to leave the day after the Peach Bowl to go out there."

"But even if I don't get invited to any all star game, I find out about the combines by the 10th of January. And that's what I really want to go, because I'll do well there. I can show everybody what I have. I want to compete against those guys- the first and second round draft picks."

While both players are confident about their ability to make in the National Football League, you can sense that there is a little nervousness, a little anxiousness if you will, to prove to the rest of the world that they can indeed become professional football players.

"Hopefully I'll receive an invitation to play in the East-West game or one of the All-Star games but I haven't received any invitations yet," added Youngblood. "I'm just pretty much waiting right now to hear from them and the combines."

And so the waiting begins.

As the Tigers begin preparations for the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl on January 2nd, these two players will be playing for more than just a victory for their college alma matter.

They'll be playing for their futures.

And on the national stage, when no other college football game is on the airwaves, they'll have their opportunity.

"Sure we both want to play well and help improve our stock, but we want to help the team win too, and that's the focus right now," added Leake. "I catch myself thinking about the NFL sometimes, but that's not really the focus until after the game."

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