The National Football League amateur draft has featured many of the top players from Cape Fear region high schools through the years. But out of 51 region standouts selected since 1947, only seven have been offensive linemen with the most recent being Lumberton’s Sean Locklear in 2004.
Those numbers could be altered by two sometime over the next three days as the NFL conducts its 84th annual draft in Nashville, Tennessee. Pine Forest graduate Lamont Gaillard and Terry Sanford’s Olisaemeka “Oli″ Udoh are both strong candidates to be taken in the two days following Thursday’s first round.
The first 32 picks will be made Thursday, starting at 8 p.m. with the Arizona Cardinals holding the first selection. Rounds two and three will be held Friday and four through seven on Saturday.
Gaillard was a two-time All-Mid-South 4-A Conference pick on the defensive line in 2012 and 2013 for Pine Forest, and was recruited by Georgia as a defensive tackle. But in the spring of 2015 Gaillard was shifted to the offensive line where he would start 42 consecutive games – 13 at guard and the final 29 at center for the Bulldogs, including the 2017 national title game against Alabama.
After earning first-team All-Southeastern Conference honors as a senior at Georgia, the 6-foot-3, 305-pounder participated in the East-West Shrine all-star game and the NFL’s Draft Combine. During the latter two events, Gaillard met with NFL team officials from the Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints and New York Jets.
“In this day and age where kids in high school are transferring to other places where they might have a better chance to play, Lamont went to Georgia as a defensive tackle,″ Pine Forest coach Bill Sochovka said. “Literally, before he got to Georgia, the defensive coordinator and the guy who recruited Lamont left. That first year as a freshman the new coaches decided he wasn’t a good fit for defense and asked him about playing offense. He said, ‘Sure.’
“Now, he’s played three years as a starter in the SEC for one of the nation’s top offenses. That is pretty impressive.″
NFL draft analyst Lance Zierlein projects Gaillard to be selected in the fourth or fifth round. Zierlein also has Terry Sanford’s Udoh being taken in the sixth round of the draft.