Dorian Johnson, Pittsburgh (6-5, 300): Johnson became Pitt’s first first-team All-American offensive lineman since Ruben Brown in 1994. Brown broke into the starting lineup late during his freshman season and concluded his career with 40 consecutive starts. He was a three-year starter at left guard, with second-team all-ACC honors as a junior and first-team accolades as a senior, when he finished third for the ACC’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy, which goes to the league’s top lineman.
Johnson was a five-star recruit at offensive tackle in nearby Belle Vernon, Pa. He and his three sisters lived with their mom and his grandparents. When his grandfather died during his freshman year of high school, it hit Johnson hard — and inspires him today. “My Pap Pap was my male role model and father figure. He taught me to work hard and to never quit.” He is cousins with Scott Booker, a former Kent State safety and current tight ends coach and special teams coordinator at Notre Dame.
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After his junior season at Venice (Fla.) High School, Lamp weighed 210 pounds. Told he had the potential to play major-college football, Lamp stopped playing basketball and started eating. A lot. About 7,000 calories per day. “He started eating about six peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches a day on top of what he was already eating and was really committed to putting on that weight,” Venice coach John Peacock said. “He paid the price in the weight room and it all worked out.”
Cameron Lee, Illinois State (6-4, 316): Lee moved into the starting lineup at right guard as a junior and started there for most of his senior season before bumping out to right tackle late in the year. He was an honorable menion on the all-Missouri Valley Conference team. A three-sport star at Oakwood (Ill.) High School, Lee is the school’s career leader in home runs and RBIs and topped 1,000 points in basketball.
Lee was a walk-on at Illinois State. “It was something where I’ve always been a hard worker, and I saw it as a challenge. An opportunity to go out and prove to myself and prove to everyone else out there what I could do. I came in as a walk-on. I was 16th out of 16 offensive linemen on the depth chart. I just had the opportunity to get a little bit better each and every year and move up the ranks. That’s just how I approached it, and that’s how I approached every year was to get a little bit better every day and see where you’re at.”
Corey Levin, Chattanooga (6-3, 305): Levin was a three-time All-American, including first-team honors during his final two seasons. Levin started 51 career games, including the final 45, earning starts at guard and both tackle spots during that span.
Levin got better with five years of one-on-one battles against teammate Keionta Davis, a defensive end who also will be at the Combine. “I think that I was extremely lucky to have that level of competition to go against every day. It’s been like that for a while. Our offensive line is going against arguably one of the best D-lines in the FCS (in practice). It’s a luxury to be able to go against that every day. It was fun, I’d say we’re pretty even. He’s a great player. When we used to go against each other early on, it was a back-and-forth thing. When we had (2015 NFL Draft pick) Davis Tull, we’d see how he’d work with the linemen his same age. We tried to mature and do the same.”
Damien Mama, USC (6-3, 325): Junior. Mama started four games as a true freshman before settling in at left guard for his final two seasons. He was a second-team all-Pac-12 choice in 2016.
One of the biggest changes he made was his body. After entering USC at nearly 400 pounds, Mama has trimmed away 75 pounds, weighing in at 325 pounds this season. Not only has his mobility and stamina increased, but Mama has previously said the weight loss helped clear his mind, allowing him to process information quicker.
Jordan Morgan, Kutztown (6-3, 313): Morgan won the Gene Upshaw Award, which goes to the best lineman (offense or defense) in Division II. Morgan, who started all 43 career games at left tackle, was a two-time first-team All-American, three-time All-American and a three-time all-conference first-team pick.
Morgan’s path is pretty incredible. He played one-half a season of football at Germantown High School in Philadelphia. The only reason he wound up at Kutzdown is because two teammates were being recruited. When he arrived at Kutztown, he weighed merely 235 pounds. "I think if they never came that day, I probably wouldn't be playing football in college. At that time, it wasn't something I wanted to do for sure, but I knew it was something I liked. When I saw the opportunity, it seemed like an obvious decision to make. If they hadn't come, that probably would have been it for me."
Taylor Moton, Western Michigan (6-5, 330): Moton bounced back and forth between guard and tackle throughout his career. As a senior, he was first-team all-MAC at right tackle. As a junior, he was a third-team selection at guard. As a freshman and sophomore, he started at right tackle. He started a school-record 52 games.
Moton is the grandson of a “Spartan legend,” though that status had nothing to do with athletics. His grandfather was Thomas Gunnings, a psychologist, activist and the first African-American faculty member in the College of Human Medicine at MSU. He died in 2010, just after Moton’s 16th birthday. “My dad worshipped the ground Taylor walked on,” Moton needed Gunnings in his life after his father died when Moton was only 4. “He is the reason I got into football in the first place,” Moton said of his grandfather. “He was like a father to me. I saw him every day, and he was a giant part of my life. He never missed a game."
Nico Siragusa, San Diego State (6-4, 326): First thing’s first: No, Siragusa is not related to former NFL defensive lineman Tony Siragusa. Siragusa was a three-year starter at guard and helped power Donnel Pumphrey to the all-time FBS rushing record. He was first-team all-Mountain West as a junior and senior.
Siragusa turned down offers to play in the Pac-12 so he could stay home and be nearer to his father, Ramon, who has gone through one kidney transplant and has been waiting for another for seven years. Siragusa was 10 pounds when he was born in 1994. His sister was only 2 pounds in 1981. She was deaf and had complications with her immune system. On Nico’s first birthday, she died. “From that day on, it’s been a day where we remember our pain, but we also live our joy,” Ramon says.
Nate Theaker, Wayne State (6-4, 319): Theaker was a first-team All-American as a sixth-year senior. Theaker started in 2013, 2014 and 2016, earning first-team all-conference in 2014 and 2016. He started 14 games at guard and eight at right tackle before moving out to left tackle for his final season. Theaker was awarded an extra year of eligibility after sitting out 2015 following back surgery to mend a herniated disc. The injury did nothing to temper his NFL dreams. “I want to make a career out of this,” he said at the start of the season. “It’s what I love to do. It’s what I’m passionate about. This is the best I’ve felt in two years. After the (back) surgery, any discomfort is gone.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.