Lunsford chasing NFL dream

BREVARD, N.C. – A quarterback from Oregon. A running back from Boise State. An Oklahoma offensive lineman. A defensive back from Brevard. A Michigan State tight end.

Does anything seem out of place? Marcus Lunsford doesn’t think so.

The recently-graduated free safety, who accumulated 189 tackles in just three seasons in royal blue and white to place seventh in the Brevard NCAA-era record book, vied for a coveted roster spot at the Washington Redskins’ rookie minicamp in May. He competed alongside 32 other NFL hopefuls, many from institutions whose enrollment figures dwarf that of Brevard, that comprised a minicamp the Redskins described as one of the best in recent memory.

“The experience was definitely eye-opening,” said 6-foot-3, 215-pound Lunsford, known for delivering punishing hits and the distinctive long dreadlocks that escaped the bottom of his helmet. “It was great for me because I’d never played at that type of level before. It was just a different level with the attention to detail and how you could see the transition from playing in school to it being a business. They really want you to get your craft down and every little detail is important.

“The playbook is something I had to catch on to on the fly. They want to see how well you do at picking it up. Everybody is athletic, so it’s more about the mental side than the physical.”

Lunsford and the other 32 invitees, who came from a mix of Division I, Division II, and NAIA schools, began their days at minicamp with position meetings and drills. They would then match up with offensive position groupings (safeties with tight ends, cornerbacks with wide receivers, etc.) for one-on-one drills before a brief full-squad scrimmage. Each day would conclude with more work in position groups, 7-on-7 competitions, and special teams drills.

Although he was not signed to an undrafted free agent contract, Lunsford received positive feedback from the Redskins’ coaching staff. “They told me that they love my size and athletic ability. They just said that I’m really raw and they have to give me the fundamentals and the football knowledge to close that gap.

“They want me to stay in shape and stay ready,” he continued, pausing from his morning workout to speak with an interviewer via phone for this story. “For right now, I’m just playing the waiting game.”

But waiting for the phone to ring from a prospective NFL employer has not been a passive exercise for Lunsford or his family. Because he is traveling a road that so few Brevard football players have before him, the school doesn’t have instant name recognition or friendly industry connections the way many others do.

So the Lunsfords have taken matters into their own hands. Marcus began thinking seriously about the NFL after hearing that the Green Bay Packers had were interested in him as a junior, and his family sprang into action to help. His brother made highlight tapes and sent them to NFL franchises. His mother helped him select an agent and spearheaded his networking efforts.

Marcus uploaded his highlights to YouTube and worked to create opportunities for himself, such as at a pro day in his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida that caught the eye of New York Jets scouts.

His personal trainer in Jacksonville put him in touch with former University of Miami standout Mel Bratton, who became his agent and was the architect of Lunsford’s opportunity with the Redskins. As Bratton works to continue putting Lunsford’s name on NFL teams’ radars, Lunsford prepares himself for the next phone call that could represent his big break.

He is optimistic in his self-evaluation. “I thought I had a pretty decent minicamp,” he reflected. “I tried to run around to the ball as much as possible and do the things I learned back at Brevard. Before we left, the Redskins said if they needed to pick anybody up, we had a great possibility.”

Should an NFL opportunity not present itself, the Canadian or Arena Football Leagues could be viable options to prove his readiness for an NFL roster spot. But Lunsford insists he’ll be pleased to compete at any level, continuing to chase his dream. And prove that no matter the team or league, his name and football credentials aren’t out of place.

Featured image courtesy of the Washington Redskins.

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