The road to the NFL doesn’t necessarily start on Union Road, but it does, at least, make a stop at .
In recent years, the South Fulton school has been nationally recognized for its preponderance of gifted football players who have gone on to play in the National Football League. The Lions are no longer the nation’s most prolific breeding ground for NFL talent, but their current numbers still rank first among the best state schools and among the top, nationally, in that category.
Three former Westlake players graced NFL Opening Day rosters in 2010, with that total expected to climb next week when former star quarterback Cam Newton figures to hear his name called early on at the NFL Draft in New York, perhaps as the top overall selection.
“It says a lot about our off-season program,” Westlake athletic director Hilda Hankerson said. “Our guys don’t just play football in the fall. Their commitment is year-round.”
Newton, the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner who guided Auburn to the national championship this past season, is set to become the latest former Westlake star to make a living playing on Sundays. Keyaron Fox has carved out a nice career as a reserve linebacker and special teams stalwart, helping the Pittsburgh Steelers team win Super Bowl XLIII in 2009 and reach the championship game this past season before falling to Green Bay.
Other former Lions still playing in the NFL include cornerback Adam Jones (Cincinnati Bengals) and safety Sean Jones (Tampa Bay Buccaneers).
Meanwhile, many more former Westlake players have called the NFL home in recent years, including linebacker Keith Adams (2001-08 with the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns); tackle Ian Allen (2002-05 with the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals) and safety Anthony Mitchell (2000-05 with the Baltimore Ravens, Jacksonville Jaguars and Cincinnati Bengals).
All six players played under former Lions coach Dallas Allen and were on NFL rosters to start the 2005 season, giving Westlake the distinction at the time of having more alums in the league than any other high school in the nation.
Hankerson credited the school’s outstanding coaching staff, as well as the steady presence of the school’s past and current NFL players for inspiring those coming up behind them.
“They do come around,” she said.
Griffin currently boasts the highest state total of the most alums with NFL experience (17). However, Marist has has the most whom are still active with five, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians website.
Westlake has already retired the jerseys of all its six players who reached the NFL, as well as that of former University of Georgia player David Jacobs. Plans are in the works to soon likewise honor Newton, Hankerson said.