PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — Another local football star has taken his talents to the NFL.
The NFL Draft kicked off Thursday night and in the middle of Round 1, the Las Vegas Raiders selected Northwest Florida native Alex Leatherwood No. 17 overall.
Leatherwood, who starred on the offensive line at Alabama, played high school at Booker T. Washington High School in Pensacola. He was a five-star recruit and early enrolled at Alabama.
Leatherwood would go on to win the Outland Trophy, awarded to the nation’s best interior lineman.
“It’s just really awesome to see the fruits of his labor paying off,” said said Booker T. Washington’s current head coach Ryan Onkka.
Despite high praise, many draft analysts believe the Raiders reached when picking him, saying he was a second-round talent.
Onkka said he doesn’t agree.
“When you’re the best lineman in the country, winning the Outland award and then being a first-team all American in the best conference in college football, it’s kind of hard to argue that you’re not the best offensive lineman,” he said. “He’s the kind of guy the exemplifies everything you want in a leader, in a teammate and in a captain.”
Onkka, who played football at South Alabama before getting into coaching, said he has talked to his team about Leatherwood and his successes. Onkka said Leatherwood becoming a first rounder is inspiring to his team.
“It’s extremely motivating. We’ve already talked to our team about it yesterday,” Onkka said. “The fact they see not only Leatherwood but other players go on to have huge success in college, but especially Leatherwood being the fifth first-round draft pick coming from Pensacola is something special.”
Leatherwood joins other Booker T. Washington alumni to make it into professional sports. Boxer Roy Jones Jr. and Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks also played at Washington.
Another local talent was also taken in the first round. Former University of Florida and Blount High School star Kadarius Toney was drafted No. 20 overall by the New York Giants.