It took much longer than expected, but Canadian Jesse Luketa had his NFL dream come true on Saturday.
The Edmonton-born, Ottawa-raised Penn State pass rusher waited nearly seven hours on the final day of the 2022 NFL Draft, but just before 6:45 p.m. EDT, the 23-year-old was picked by the Arizona Cardinals with the 35th pick. seventh and final round, 256th overall – the seventh final pick in the draft.
Luketa was one of three Canadians selected this year during the NFL’s three-day selection meeting in Las Vegas.
In a surprise Saturday, a former Canadian college player — former University of Calgary Dinos cornerback Deane Leonard — was taken away by the Los Angeles Chargers with the 15th pick of the seventh round, 236th overall.
Leonard was ranked only #56 in the draft by Dane Brugler of TheAthletic.com. He had transferred to the University of Mississippi and played two seasons with the Rebels. But he was timed this year at an incredibly fast speed of 4.37 seconds on the 40-yard dash.
Leonard will become the sixth Canadian this spring on the Chargers’ 90-man roster — along with Toronto cornerback Tevaughn Campbell, Vancouver defensive tackle Christian Covington, Calgary linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga, wide receiver Josh Palmer of Brampton and North Bay. , Ont., offensive lineman Ryan. Hunter.
John Metchie III, who spent most of his elementary and high school years in Brampton, was the first Canadian selected Friday night by the Houston Texans 12 picks in Round 2, 44th overall. This was sooner than expected as Metchie tore his left ACL just five months ago.
As for Luketa (pronounced Loo-KEH-ta), most draft experts considered him a Day 3 pick — but likely sooner (Rounds 4-5) than later (Rounds 6-7).
He tweeted Saturday night, simply, “Highly favored… Let’s work AZ!”
Luketa began dreaming of playing in the NFL around age 10 while living with his single mother and seven siblings in the Hero Gate neighborhood of southern Ottawa.
That’s when he fell in love with the popular football game Madden, and when he started playing youth football with the South Ottawa Mustangs.
After playing on the St. Patrick’s High School in 9th grade, Luketa and his mother Rose arranged for him to play his last three years of high school football at the state, in Erie, Pennsylvania.
Luketa ended up choosing Penn State amid a string of full scholarship offers to top NCAA Division I universities.
At least three other Canadians have won a chance to make an NFL team this spring or summer.
Defensive end Luiji Vilain of Ottawa, who played college ball for Michigan and Wake Forest, has agreed to be an undrafted free agent for the Minnesota Vikings, according to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network.
Tre Ford of Niagara Falls, Ont. — the stunning University of Waterloo quarterback in Canadian college basketball and the fastest QB in this year’s NFL draft class — was invited to experiment with the Baltimore Ravens at their rookie camp in early May, according to Justin Dunk of 3downnation.com.
Ford’s brother, University of Waterloo defensive back Tyrell Ford, was invited to two rookie mini-camps in May by Dunk — with the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets.
Deionte Knight, a defensive lineman at Western University in London, Ontario, was invited to audition at the Washington Commanders rookie mini-camp next weekend.
SEC STILL THE CHAMPION
For the nth year in a row, the SEC was the college conference that provided the most players for the NFL Draft. By far.
This year: 65, equal to last year’s total of 65, but two fewer than 2020’s 67 and one more than 2019’s 64.
The conference with the most players was once again the Big Ten, with 48 – compared to 44 last year, 48 in 2020 and 40 in 2019.
Tied for a distant third at 25 were the Big 12 (after 22 last year and 21 in 2020) and Pac-12 (after 28 last year and 32 in 2020). The supply of ACC players has dropped to 21, exactly half of last year’s 42, and slightly down from 2020’s 26.
15 FROM GEORGIA!
The University of Georgia — which won both the SEC and US National Championships in 2021 — broke the NFL’s record of seven rounds for most drafted players with 15.
And all 15 were before the end of Round 6.
This breaks the record of 14 shared by LSU in 2020 and Ohio State in 2004. Before the NFL reduced the number of draft rounds to seven in 1994, the University of Texas had 17 draft picks in 1984 when there were 12 rounds.
Last year, Alabama and Ohio State provided the most drafted players, with 13 each.
QB SCROLL CALL
In all, nine quarterbacks were drafted, but only one – Kenny Pickett for the Pittsburgh Steelers – was chosen in the first two rounds.
Perhaps only Pickett has much of a chance of starting in 2022.
This year’s QB squad:
- Pitt’s Pickett, Round 1, No. 20 overall, for Pittsburgh;
- Desmond Ridder of Cincinnati, Round 3, No. 74, for Atlanta;
- Liberty’s Malik Willis, Round 3, No. 86, for Tennessee;
- Matt Corral of Mississippi, Round 3, No. 94, for Carolina;
- Bailey Zappe of Western Kentucky, round 4, for New England;
- North Carolina’s Sam Howell, Round 5, to Washington;
- Chris Oladokun, State of South Dakota, round 7, for Pittsburgh;
- Kansas State’s Skylar Thompson, Round 7, to Miami;
- And Brock Purdy from Iowa State, Round 7, to San Francisco.
Purdy, in fact, was the so-called “Mr. Irrelevant” as the last pick in the draft with 41Street round 7 pick, 262na overall… Philadelphia may be the City of Brotherly Love, but Pittsburgh is giving its out-of-state rival a run for its money. The Steelers selected Michigan State tight end Connor Heyward in the 7th round. He is the brother of current Steelers defensive lineman Cameron Heyward. Now, they are the fourth brother to the Pittsburgh team, which includes ace pass rusher TJ Watt and quarterback Derek Watt.
John Kryk now writes a weekly newsletter on NFL affairs. The content is exclusive to that platform. You can have it automatically in your email inbox on Wednesdays simply by subscribing – for free – at https://torontosun.com/newsletters/