Laken Tomlinson Has A Great Story


Laken Tomlinson, the former Duke Blue Devils offensive lineman, was drafted 28th overall in the NFL Draft on Thursday night by the Detroit Lions. Not only was he the first Blue Devil to be a first round pick since 1987, but he also has a tremendous story behind all of his success, and some pretty unheard of aspirations beyond football.

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Tomlinson grew up in Jamaica and his family was impoverished. When he was a young boy his grandfather decided to make a change and emigrate to Chicago so his family could have a better life. At the age of 11 Tomlinson was trying to adjust to life in America and says that he experienced big time culture shock.

Tomlinson then became a very big boy, 6’3″ 323 pounds, and was a very successful college football player at Duke university. Besides being an outstanding offensive lineman though, Tomlinson is also extremely intelligent and plans to be a neurosurgeon after his football career is over.

It is very rare that you hear of a player coming into the NFL with neurosurgery as their backup plan, but Tomlinson is a rare kid. Even with all of the recent discussion about the effect football can have on a players brain, Tomlinson still has made the decision to pursue a professional football career saying he’s “come to terms with the violent risk.”

The former Blue Devil is known for his mauling style of blocking, and did not allow a single sack in his final two years at Duke. His goal in Detroit is to keep the quarterback from getting hit, and then when his football career comes to a close he will do work in the lab to see if he can make football an ever safer game.

Once Tomlinson steps on the field for the first time he will likely be the smartest man out there, but he is just as strong as he is smart. His story is an inspiration to many people out there who came from nothing, and you can’t help but be happy for the guy. The fact that his dream was realized at the NFL draft in Chicago (this was the first time Chicago hosted the draft in over 50 years) where Tomlinson grew up, is almost unbelievable for Tomlinson.

“It’s unreal, like a Disney movie, after everything I’ve been through on this journey,” he said. “It’s a night I’ve dreamed about for a really long time. To have the draft in Chicago is phenomenal. I’m ecstatic.”

Look for Tomlinson to not only do great things on the football field in Detroit, but to have a huge impact off the field too.

Congratulations again to Laken Tomlinson and stay tuned to Ball Durham for all the latest on Duke athletics.