Column: Judon can be best Laker ever

NFL history features a handful of Lakers, but few stand above

By A.A. Knorr | 3/16/16 11:17pm


Matt Judon has the potential to be the best NFL product in Grand Valley State history. It’s that simple.

Judon is already arguably the best college defensive player in GVSU history, though current NFL-ers Dan Skuta and Brandon Carr could fairly have beef with that statement.

But the numbers speak for themselves, and I’m a numbers guy. Judon’s 20 sacks in the 2015 season tied a Division II record, and his 34 career sacks broke Dan Skuta’s GVSU record.

But I’m also an eye-test guy. And guess what? Judon, playing in Division II, met the eye test before the snap. He’s stronger than his opponents. He’s quicker. He’s more dedicated. And he’s fast.

Take a trip through Judon’s career highlights on YouTube, and note his pursuit. Only one quarterback in the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine clocked a faster 40-yard dash time than Judon, and that quarterback was Jeff Driskel. I think it’s safe to say Judon and Driskel will never meet at the next level, and that’s no fault of Judon’s.

Various NFL Draft outlets are pumping Judon as a fourth-round draft pick, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him climb even higher on draft day. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Judon has put himself in quite possibly the best position he could have following the end of the season. He dominated at the combine. He impressed at Pro Day. Though he doesn’t care for the media, he says the right things.

Outside of Ferris State football forums the day after GVSU beat Ferris State in the Division II playoffs, I’ve never heard a negative remark about Judon’s character or conduct. By all accounts, he’s a hard worker, a natural leader and a competitor. In short, his character fits right along with his 40-time. It’s what the scouts are looking for.

So who, right now, would be considered the best NFL product in GVSU history? It’s really between two men.

Carr, who signed a five-year, $50,100,000 contract with the Dallas Cowboys in 2014, is certainly the most financially prolific, and legitimately has a good case for most talented. Cowboy fans would argue he isn’t worth his contract, but living up to a $50 million contract isn’t a cakewalk.

Looking back a few decades, we can pick out wide receiver Jeff Chadwick, who is GVSU’s longest tenured NFL-er with a 10-year career. Chadwick went undrafted, but signed on with the Detroit Lions in 1983, and made a career with the Lions, Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams. Chadwick’s career numbers: 126 games, 292 receptions, 4,549 yards and 27 touchdowns. Chadwick has a case.

Others — offensive tackle Ron Essink (1980-1985), Skuta (2009-present), offensive guard Tim Lelito (2013-present) and up-and-coming Minnesota Vikings receiver Charles Johnson (2013-present) — have all made their mark as proud Laker alumni in the NFL.

But as I sit here eternally thankful for for making me look like I know more than I do, one thing springs to mind: there’s no clear-cut best Laker.

And Judon has a chance.

Let’s be clear, there are some negatives to Judon. He had a six-year college career, meaning he’s older than your average 2016 draft participant. He has a history of injuries. He played against Division II competition.

But the fact of the matter is NFL teams are plenty aware of this, and nearly every one still shipped a scout or coach to scenic Allendale to see if Judon’s too-good-to-be-true combine was oh-wait-it’s-actually-true.

So here’s my hot take, because 2016 sportswriting is all about hot takes. Judon moves to the third round, because someone will refuse to miss him, and everyone knows about him. An immediate NFL impact is unlikely. The jump from Division II to the NFL is vastly different than the jump from Division I.

But in 10 years, when another overworked Lanthorn sports editor is hyping up the next Laker prospect, he’s not going to have to hop online to determine who the best GVSU product in NFL history was. He’ll know.

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