By now, we know what many of the top prospects set to be selected in the 2020 NFL draft can do on the field. But you might not know too much about them beyond their “elite closing burst” or “strong wrap-up tackling skills” or “explosive ability with the football.” Past the scouting reports and combine testing, so many of these players come with fascinating backgrounds, surprising NFL connections and compelling non-football hobbies.
So we did you all a favor and compiled 50 of the most interesting draft-class facts we could find. How about quarterback who can squat nearly 600 pounds? Check out No. 3. A wide receiver who bowled a perfect game? Head down to No. 12. A defensive end who swims with sharks? No. 36 on the list. From the top of the board to the late-rounders, the 2020 class brings intrigue on and off the field.
Let’s get to know some of the prospects who could be drafted Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Note: Jim Carr of ESPN’s Universal News Group provided background research for this story. And all rankings are via Scouts Inc.
2. LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson is the second-ranked edge rusher in the draft, behind Chase Young, but it’s only by chance that he landed a college scholarship. Before he played varsity football, Chaisson arrived at an LSU football camp to support a friend — not planning to participate. But with borrowed shorts, cleats and helmet, he left with an offer.
3. Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts was a competitive weightlifter in high school. When he got to Norman in February 2019, the 220-pounder completed a 585-pound squat that sent his Sooners teammates, and social media, into a frenzy. And he reportedly squatted 500 pounds in high school.
4. For Penn State wide receiver KJ Hamler‘s 18th, 19th and 20th birthdays, his parents, Latonya Gooding and Thomas Hamler, created original songs in which they rap and sing. The most recent one garnered more than 272,000 views.
5. Georgia’s Andrew Thomas, one of the top four offensive tackles in the class, was a dual threat of sorts at Atlanta’s Pace Academy. Thomas told reporters at the combine that he would wear his football jersey at pep rallies while playing percussion in the high school band.
6. Versatile Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray, a projected first-round pick, performed CPR on a woman who was bleeding and unconscious in the middle of the street, saving her life. He told no one, and it became public only because someone from Oklahoma’s school newspaper happened to be driving by and recognized Murray.
8. Ross Blacklock, a 6-foot-4, 305-pound defensive tackle from TCU, moves well for his size. How well? He has been able to dunk a basketball since he was 13. His father, Jimmy Blacklock, played and coached for the Harlem Globetrotters. It’s in the genes.
9. Jake Fromm, who went 35-6 as Georgia’s starting quarterback over the past three seasons and is projected to be one of the top seven QBs off the board in this year’s draft, led his Little League team from Warner Robins, Georgia, to the Little League World Series in 2011. The 5-foot-11, 163-pound 12-year-old was nicknamed “Man Child.” He hit three homers and struck out 11 of the 18 batters he faced.
Before donning the Georgia Bulldogs jersey, Jake Fromm dominated the competition at the Little League World Series.
10. Louisville offensive tackle Mekhi Becton, at 6-foot-7 and 364 pounds, is the heaviest player to run a 40-yard dash in under 5.20 seconds since 2006, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. (He ran a 5.10.) According to The Athletic, the Cardinals’ strength coach could only think of one person to whom he could compare Becton’s combination of size and agility: NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal.
11. UCLA kicker JJ Molson is part of Canadian royalty. He is an eighth-generation descendant of John Molson, who founded the famous Montreal brewery in 1786. The Molsons — Geoff Molson is the first cousin of JJ’s father — also own the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens.
12. Wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden recorded 1,396 receiving yards at Liberty in 2019, but he can do so much more, including solve a Rubik’s Cube in a minute and do a full flip while catching a football. But perhaps most impressive, he bowled a perfect game two months after trying the sport for the first time.
13. Maybe Kyle Dugger, a safety out of Division II Lenoir-Rhyne in North Carolina, had a vested interest in the 40-yard dash, in which he ran a 4.49 at the combine (sixth fastest among the safeties). Or maybe he likes Research Physics, the class for which he and two teammates made a laser-timed 40-yard dash machine for a senior project.
14. As a senior at Mount Vernon High School in Iowa, highly touted draft prospect Tristan Wirfs won the state wrestling title in the 285-pound division. The offensive tackle, who had already committed to play football at Iowa, weighed 322 pounds when he decided to wrestle.
15. Eno Benjamin of Arizona State, a two-time All-Pac 12 running back, has his own clothing line. The gear — it’s even available for toddlers! — says “All About the Benjamin” and “Tucson’s Most Hated.” The latter is a dig at would-be tacklers from intrastate rival Arizona.
17. Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert, who ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has going fifth overall to the Dolphins, won the 2019 William V. Campbell Trophy, which many refer to as the “Academic Heisman.” Herbert’s final project in Biology 212 measured the effects of ice baths on blood pressure, and the 6-foot-6, big-armed QB used teammates for the experiments.
18. The hometown of Mason Fine, the most-decorated quarterback in North Texas history, is barely on the map. Peggs, Oklahoma, located an hour’s drive east of Tulsa, had only 813 people as of the 2010 Census, and it is designated as unincorporated.
19. Game-breaking wide receiver Henry Ruggs III, who paced the combine with a 4.27 40-yard dash, scored 24 career touchdowns at Alabama. In the end zone, his “3s Up” celebration honored his high school best friend, Rod Scott, who was killed in a car crash. Both Ruggs and Scott, who was a prospective college basketball player, wore No. 3.
20. Arizona State running back J.J. Taylor measured 5-foot-5¼ inches at the combine, where officials stretched a tape measure from the ground up — an unorthodox practice. He is tied with Trindon Holliday as the combine’s shortest player since 2006.
21. Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet is Scouts Inc.’s top-rated tight end in the class. We won’t know if he is destined for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for quite some time, but Kmet, who also played baseball in South Bend, is already in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. His helmet from a 2018 game against Syracuse at Yankee Stadium resides there.
22. Offensive tackle Hakeem Adeniji started every game for Kansas over the past three seasons. But he arrived in Lawrence only thanks to a cashew allergy that denied him enrollment at the Air Force Academy, which refused to medically clear him just before his arrival.
24. Brycen Hopkins, a tight end out of Purdue, is the son of Pro Bowl offensive tackle Brad Hopkins — who played with the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans franchise from 1993 to 2005. In the locker room, quarterback Steve McNair and running back Eddie George used to push Brycen around in a laundry basket.
25. You never know when you’ll need to get some work in. At least that’s the attitude of Alabama’s Trevon Diggs, Scout Inc.’s third-ranked cornerback and the younger brother of Buffalo Bills receiver Stefon Diggs. The ball hawking DB takes his cleats literally everywhere he goes.
26. Though Memphis running back Patrick Taylor Jr. grew up in Texas, his family moved there from New Orleans. So when Hurricane Katrina hit, the Taylors, already entrenched in a 3,000-foot home, hosted nearly 50 people who fled from the storm when Patrick was 7 years old.
27. Safety Jordan Fuller, a two-time captain at Ohio State, has an accomplished mother. Cindy Mizelle was a backup singer for The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston and Luther Vandross, among others. Pretty decent résumé, huh?
28. In 2019, Auburn’s Derrick Brown was a unanimous All-America selection, SEC defensive player of the year and … a budding politician? Brown’s teammates called him “Baby Barack” for a personality suited for shaking hands and kissing babies. It’s the only time the 326-pound Brown, the draft’s best defensive tackle, is called a baby anything.
Derrick Brown has been a dominant force on the defensive line for three years in the SEC for Auburn; now he’s heading to the NFL.
30. Charlotte running back Benny LeMay spent time with former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow — and Cam Newton during his brief stint with UF — as a child. LeMay’s father, Stacy, was the Gators’ team chaplain under Urban Meyer.
31. Quarterback Jordan Love, Utah State’s all-time leader in total offense, was supposed to be named Michael Jordan Love. That’s what his father wanted, as a tribute to Michael Jordan. But his mother, Anna, stepped in and changed it to Jordan Alexander Love.
32. There’s a kicker in this draft class named Vinatieri who went to South Dakota State. Sound familiar? Adam Vinatieri’s nephew, Chase Vinatieri, was in the stands for his uncle’s game-winning field goals in Super Bowl XXXVI and Super Bowl XXXVIII.
33. Offensive tackle Calvin Throckmorton, who started 52 straight games at Oregon, majored in human physiology, and he dreams of being a doctor when football is done. His nickname in Eugene? “Doc Throck.”
34. Wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, a projected first-round pick, forged a close relationship with former Sooners teammate Marquise Brown (now with the Baltimore Ravens). Lamb and Brown nicknamed themselves the Saiyan Brothers after characters on “Dragon Ball Z,” a Japanese anime television series. It even inspired their touchdown celebrations.
37. Before LSU offensive tackle Saahdiq Charles was blocking for quarterback Joe Burrow, he was blocking shots. Charles, who is now 6-foot-4 and 321 pounds, was an all-state soccer goalkeeper in high school.
38. Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, the sixth-leading rusher in FBS history, is a big fan of Immanuel Kant. No, Kant isn’t a bell-cow running back Taylor tries to emulate. He is a German philosopher from the 1700s.
40. Lourens Willekes, brother to Michigan State defensive end Kenny Willekes, is a trampoline gymnast and was a 2020 Olympics hopeful. But don’t discount Kenny’s own athleticism: He is the Spartans’ all-time leader in tackles for a loss.
41. Penn State cornerback John Reid interned at Blizzard Entertainment, a video game company, for eight weeks last spring and summer. His fascination with coding and software began before that, though: Reid teamed up with his uncle in high school to build a computer.
42. California linebacker Evan Weaver, the nation’s leading tackler last season, doesn’t forget his critics. He writes reminders of them on a huge rock and crosses them off once he has proved them wrong.
44. Before Washington’s Salvon Ahmed became a 1,000-yard rusher in 2019, he made the rap album “A Safehouse Summer.” Ahmed, a hip-hop aficionado with a Tupac Shakur tattoo, wrote and recorded six songs with his friends.
45. Have you ever heard of an old soul? Meet LSU defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence. His teammates nicknamed him “Uncle Phil,” a reference to the fatherly figure in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” for his mannerisms of an old man.
46. Alabama’s Xavier McKinney, Scouts Inc.’s best safety in the draft, is an artist on the side. He is covered in tattoos that he designed himself, including one of Marvin the Martian and another of “Rugrats” character Chuckie Finster holding bricks in his hands.
Former Alabama safety Xavier McKinney asks Mel Kiper Jr. why he isn’t the No. 1 safety on his mock draft board.
47. Defensive end Jonathan Greenard played one season as a graduate transfer at Florida, where he led the SEC in sacks (9.5) and tackles for a loss (15.5). But he also can sing: He finished fourth in “The Gift,” a competition for Atlanta vocalists from ages 9 to 15.
49. Northwestern’s all-time sack leader, defensive tackle Joe Gaziano, is also known as “Joe Fettuccine Alfredo.” But it is his rather mundane first name that has the interesting backstory. Gaziano’s father, Frank, wanted to name his son Joe, and Frank “acquired” the family rights to the name from his brother, Joseph, in exchange for … a weight bench.
50. Cornerback Michael Ojemudia will graduate from Iowa with a degree in mechanical engineering, and he wants to get into auto design once football is over. He was inspired by his father (an employee at Ford) and a childhood love for Hot Wheels.