Two hundred fifty-four names will be called on the stage in Nashville, Tennessee, over the course of three days this week. And many of those 2019 NFL draft class prospects come with fascinating backgrounds, pro connections and interests.
A relative of a jazz music legend (No. 24)? A film buff-turned-linebacker (No. 35)? A boxing champion’s son (No. 15)? Mike Bibby’s nephew (No. 48)? How about a track and field record-holder (No.12)?
Let’s get to know some of the players who could be drafted Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Note: Jim Carr of ESPN’s Universal News Group, TJ Berka of ESPN’s NFL team and ESPN Stats & Information all provided background research for this story.
1. Kentucky’s Benny Snell Jr. was born to play running back. His father, Ben Snell, played in the XFL — and actually was the one who came up with the famous “He Hate Me” nickname — and his uncle played in the NFL for the Jets.
Kaleb McGary is a tall, well-built right tackle prospect out of Washington who is a very good run-blocker and moves defenders off the ball when he keeps his pads down.
3. Rashan Gary, the super-athletic defensive end out of Michigan, already created his own sports agency, Rashan Gary Sports. The agency represents Gary and Bowling Green defensive back Montre Gregory.
4. Kentucky cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr. was originally supposed to play at Ohio State, but an ACT score he needed to count to be academically eligible had his last name spelled J-O-H-N-N-S-O-N, which negated the score. He ended up in junior college for three years before ultimately playing for the Wildcats. Lonnie said it was a computer mishap.
5. West Virginia QB Will Grier is not the most famous member of his family, at least by social media standards. Nash Grier, now 21, has 9.9 million followers on Instagram and 7 million on Twitter, and 18-year-old Hayes Grier was on “Dancing With The Stars” and now has his own internet show called “Top Grier.”
6. Way before linebacker Devin Bush was tackling running backs at Michigan, his father, Devin Bush Sr., won the national championship in 1993 at Florida State, was a first-round draft pick in 1995 for the Atlanta Falcons and later won Super Bowl XXXIV with the St. Louis Rams.
Devin Bush is a linebacker from Michigan who was named the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2018.
7. Josh Jacobs and Damien Harris could become the sixth and seventh Alabama running backs selected in the first or second rounds in the Nick Saban era, joining Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy, T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry.
9. The Bosa family can join the Manning family as the only families in NFL history with a father and two sons who were first-round picks. Ohio State DE Nick Bosa is the younger brother of the Los Angeles Chargers‘ Joey Bosa. Their father, John Bosa, and uncle, Eric Kumerow, were defensive ends for the Miami Dolphins in the 1980s.
Oshane Ximines is a defensive end from Old Dominion who was first-team Conference USA in 2018.
12. Parris Campbell‘s speed is well known since the Ohio State wide receiver dazzled with a 4.31 time in the 40-yard dash at the combine. But he is also the state of Ohio’s high school indoor track 60-yard-dash record-holder (6.85 seconds).
13. Interested in quarterbacks with NFL ties? The uncle of Boise State’s Brett Rypien is former Washington quarterback Mark Rypien, the MVP of Super Bowl XXVI, and Vanderbilt QB Kyle Shurmur‘s father, Pat, is the coach of the New York Giants.
14. USC outside linebacker Porter Gustin consumes more than 10,000 calories a day, carrying a small blender with him all day and blending most of his meals into shakes. He does 300 pushups and 300 situps each night and drinks more than two gallons of water per day.
Rock Ya-Sin was a first-team All-American Athletic Conference selection at corner back as a senior at Temple.
19. San Jose State tight end Josh Oliver‘s uncle, Clancy Oliver, was an NFL defensive back, and his second cousin might be remembered by baseball fans; Darren Oliver was a relief pitcher for 20 MLB seasons.
21. Arizona State wide receiver N’Keal Harry and Washington corner Byron Murphy are good friends, meeting when they were freshmen in high school. They played together during their sophomore high school season, and Harry actually lived with Murphy for a few months during that year.
22. Before Mark Fields was making plays as a corner for Clemson, his father — also named Mark — was the 1994 Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year at Washington State, a first-round NFL draft pick and two-time Pro Bowler.
Mark Fields is a cornerback out of Clemson who helped the Tigers win two national championships during his career.
23. Wide receiver Greg Dortch missed the last month of his 2017 season at Wake Forest after he punctured his small intestine diving onto a pylon. Before he went to the hospital for surgery, he scored two more touchdowns in that game.
24. Most people probably assumed Boston College defensive end Wyatt Ray would have been a musician rather than NFL player; he is a grandson of jazz musician Nat King Cole and nephew of singer Natalie Cole.
25. Buffalo wide receiver Anthony Johnson joins plenty of talented family members in the NFL. Houston Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph and former Buffalo Bills safety Jonathan Meeks are his cousins.
27. This draft class has a Michael Jackson (corner out of University of Miami) and a Joe Jackson (DE also from Miami). There’s also a Michael Jordan (Ohio State guard) and Lil’Jordan Humphrey (Texas WR named after M.J.). And that Josh Allen high on draft boards isn’t the Buffalo Bills QB; it’s the playmaking edge rusher from Kentucky. Oh, and there are two David Longs: West Virginia linebacker David Long Jr. and Michigan corner David Long.
28. Remember the 13-year-old seventh-grade QB who got national attention by committing to USC in 2010? It was David Sills V. But when USC and then West Virginia wanted him to change positions, he became a wide receiver for the Mountaineers.
29. Irv Smith Sr. (Notre Dame) was the No. 20 draft pick by the New Orleans Saints in 1993. His son, Irv Smith Jr., could also be a Day 1 selection and would be the third Alabama tight end drafted in the first round (Ozzie Newsome and O.J. Howard).
Irv Smith Jr. is a tight end out of Alabama who caught seven touchdowns for the Crimson Tide during his final season.
30. What makes Auburn corner Jamel Dean‘s 4.30 40 time (fastest among all CBs this year and second-fastest overall) even more impressive? He tore his right ACL, the meniscus in his right knee and his left ACL over his high school and college football careers.
31. Offensive tackle Maurice Simba of Concordia was separated from his parents for 15 years after they left the Democratic Republic of the Congo for Montreal when he was 3 years old. He was raised by his grandparents before being reunited with his parents in 2012.
34. Georgia receiver Riley Ridley played against his older brother, Calvin Ridley of the Atlanta Falcons, in the 2018 College Football Playoff championship game. Now they might play against each other in the NFL.
35. Before he was playing inside linebacker for the University of Washington, Ben Burr-Kirven and his brother, Carter, grew up shooting movies and writing scripts together. Film remains a big part of Ben’s life.
36. It remains to be seen who will pass-protect for Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray in the NFL. But in high school, it was a pair of offensive linemen who are also in this draft class: Ole Miss’ Greg Little and Oklahoma’s Bobby Evans.
40. Alabama linebacker Christian Miller‘s dad, Corey, played linebacker at South Carolina and was a sixth-round pick of the New York Giants in 1991.
41. Hall of Fame cornerback Herb Adderley won five titles with the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys from 1961 to 1972 and is Delaware safety Nasir Adderley‘s twice-removed first cousin. Herb learned that the Packers picked him No. 12 overall in the 1961 NFL draft by telegram.
Nasir Adderley is a versatile defensive back from Delaware with a strong blend of balance, fluidity and better closing burst than his 40 time would suggest.
42. Wonder why Chauncey Gardner changed his name to Chauncey Gardner-Johnson? Although Brian Johnson is technically his stepfather, the Florida defensive back said Brian is like a father to him. So on New Year’s Eve 2017, he tweeted the name change as a tribute, and soon after made it official.
43. Miami safeties Jaquan Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine grew up in the same Richmond Heights neighborhood and played football together for the Richmond Giants, Killian High and the Hurricanes. They even roomed together.
45. Michigan State safety Khari Willis was rushed to the hospital when he was a toddler after he developed a fever and became unconscious. Doctors determined Willis had an adenovirus that can be fatal. It took three days, but Willis regained consciousness.
46. Three Washburn players have been drafted (Cary Williams, Trey Lewis and Troy Stedman) but none before the sixth round. Cornerback Corey Ballentine hopes to be the first.
Washburn’s Corey Ballentine has good top-end speed, can line up on the inside and the outside, and his playing speed matches timed speed.
47. Iman Marshall, a corner out of USC, played for former NFL linebacker Antonio Pierce at Long Beach Poly. The school also produced JuJu Smith-Schuster, Jurrell Casey, Jayon Brown and DeSean Jackson.
Byron Murphy is a defensive back from Washington who earned first-team All-Pac-12 and second-team AP All-America accolades.