For UCLA middle linebacker Justin London, football is in his blood. It is apparent in the way he hits and in the natural instincts he brings to the football field. When London is drafted this weekend, he will follow the footsteps of his father, Tommy, who played cornerback for the Cleveland Browns.
"I'm sure his love for the game came down through me as well. I just always loved to play. It was something that he loved, so I grew up playing it for fun and it just grew from there. I've never stopped loving it and always played whether it was in the street in New York in the neighborhood or organized ball. It's in my veins," London said.
After a phenomenal sophomore season, including 98 tackles and three interceptions, London was hampered by a nagging ankle injury. But he hasn't let that stop him. In fact, he was able to show NFL scouts that his ankle is better than ever with his performance at the East/West Shrine game this year. "A lot of the scouts were happy to see me out on the field first hand to see how I'm running around, my explosiveness and the health of my ankle," he said.
A fierce run-stopper, London thrives on his contagious emotion and passion for the game. He simply enjoys hitting people, an invaluable characteristic for a middle linebacker.
"As far as rushing defense, that's what I love to do. I was raised up being a banger in the middle and playing the run hard. I just love it and that's where my instincts come into play and I just feel plays and sense them. That comes back to studying and knowing what team's tendencies are. I know how to attack very quickly," London said.
London models his game after NFL greats Ronnie Lott and Ray Lewis. He feels his hard hitting resembles Lott, while his raw emotions mirror Lewis. He talked about the aspects of Lewis' and Lott's game that he admires the most. "The speed of Ray Lewis and how he attacks ball carriers at the line of scrimmage as well as his love and passion for what he does. And with Ronnie Lott, how he just used to come up and hit is what I used to love about him, he used to come up and kill people. That's what made those two legendary while I was growing up," he said.
Despite his ankle problems, London accumulated 198 tackles, 36 for a loss, during his three years starting for UCLA. Regarded as one of the most talented middle linebackers in college football, he relishes the role that comes with the position and received an award for his leadership.
"I've been battling with this injury to my ankle throughout the latter part of my college career. I just think my teammates love that the fact I still give it 110 percent whenever I'm out there and it gets them excited to play," London said.
Rest assured, London is tirelessly working this off-season to make sure whoever drafts him won't be sorry. "I feel like I'm a preacher of hard work and I like to get it done even during the off-season. I work just like I was when I was getting ready for a game. Since I've been out of school, it's been nice to be on my own and train on my own so people can't see what I do. When I'm out there working I just know that good things are going to come. I'm a hard worker and I love the game of football, so wherever I end up it's going to be a steal when it comes draft time…I'm going to be a steal for some team," he said.
Justin London's "Going to be a Steal"
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