There were times growing up on hot summer nights when Lamarcus Joyner would soak his T-shirts in water and sleep next to a fan because his mother couldn’t afford to switch on the air-conditioning unit.
And that was the least of his hardships while growing up in the drug- and violence-ravaged Victory Homes projects in Miami.
Joyner, though, won’t have to struggle anymore. On Friday night, the St. Louis Rams traded up to the 41st spot in the NFL Draft to take the 5-8, 184-pound Florida State defensive back, the first of two Seminoles to be chosen in the second round.
Seven picks later, the Baltimore Ravens drafted FSU defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan. The Ravens then chose FSU safety Terrence Brooks in the third round, 79th overall.
“I’m very excited for Lamarcus. He’s one of the great Seminoles of all-time and one of my favorite players of all-time,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher was quoted as saying on the football team’s official Twitter account. “He was an unbelievable team leader for us. He’s a very versatile player that’s going to have a great career in the NFL.”
Joyner, who was following the draft Friday at a private party in Fort Lauderdale with family and close friends, couldn’t be reached for comment. But the former St. Thomas Aquinas standout, who was named USA Today’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2009, said earlier this week he knew the moment was going to be special.
Joyner grew up with a father who was abusive toward his mother before he finally convinced her to kick him out. Two older brothers have been in jail for gun-related arrests since Joyner was in high school.
“I’ve been rated the No. 1 player in Dade County, made plays on ESPN, won a national championship, but I’ve never had a feeling like the first time I took one back for six [points] at Tacolcy Park,” Joyner said. “I’ve always been chasing that feeling of my first interception ever since. The draft might come close.”
Joyner joins a Rams defense that was middle of the pack. St. Louis ranked 13th in scoring defense, 15th in yards per game and 19th against the pass. Joyner said he takes pride in the fact that he has never been injured in high school or college and started 40 games for the Seminoles.
ESPN analyst Mel Kiper called Joyner “an impactful player … a slot corner with scheme versatility.” NFL Network analyst Charlie Casserly, a former general manager with the Redskins, said Joyner has the size of a small corner and really good feet, but “he’s not really good enough to be a corner.”
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“Guy who has a nose for the ball, really loves to play to the line of scrimmage,” NFL Network analyst Matt Millen said.
“He also shows good angles; they can blitz him off the edge. When you watch him in space, at times you want him to be a little bit better. But this is a guy around the line of scrimmage, he’s a pretty good player. I would think you play him in the box.”
Said Casserly: “He’s got the instincts and aggressiveness to be a safety. But the body type, you’re going to be worried about long term.”
Jernigan, a player some pegged to go in the first round before he and two FSU teammates were among a group of 10 players who reported failed drug tests at the NFL Combine, became only the second Seminole to get drafted by the Ravens.
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said although some people think Jernigan (6-1 1/2, 299 pounds) is too small to be a nose tackle, “I thought he was the best run defender in college football at the inside position.”
“Reminds me a little of Nick Fairley,” former Ravens coach Brian Billick said on the NFL Network. “Again, you build on the inside. [The pick] says don’t bother trying to run inside. Not with Haloti Ngata there. Not with Mount Cody there. Now you put this guy in the mix, you’re going to have to go outside on the edges.”
Said ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay: “He’s a good player. But I don’t understand the scheme fit [with Baltimore]. There were a lot of other places you could have gone with this pick. Underwhelming.”
Brooks (5-11, 198) is a player McShay said was the last player on his board with a second-round grade.
“This is a steal for the Ravens,” McShay said.
“Physical presence near the line. Can cover. Good range. He’s always around the football. He can contribute immediately and will eventually develop into an every-down starter for this team.”