COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Not many football players can go from high school to the NFL without leaving a 17-mile radius. Uchenna Nwosu was thrilled to be able to complete that feat Friday night after getting drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers, who play their home games in his hometown.
COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Not many football players can go from high school to the NFL without leaving a 17-mile radius.
Uchenna Nwosu was thrilled to be able to complete that feat Friday night after getting drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers, who play their home games in his hometown.
The Chargers selected the Southern California linebacker with their second-round pick, the 48th overall.
Los Angeles kept its focus on defense in the third round, picking North Carolina State defensive tackle Justin Jones.
Nwosu starred at Narbonne High School in Harbor City before leading the Trojans, who won the Pac-12 title last season. Now he'll spend Sundays at StubHub Center, where he has spent many days before.
"It means a lot to be around the people that supported me my whole life," Nwosu said. "Just to be able to play right down the street from my parents' house where we grew up, walking and watching tennis matches and all types of soccer games there my whole life, just to be able to play in there and be home, it just means a lot to me. I'm very grateful for it."
Nwosu grew up in Carson, the suburban home of the two-stadium complex now occupied by the Chargers while they build their permanent home in nearby Inglewood. While StubHub's compact size is unique in the NFL, Nwosu knows all about it.
"I'm used to that place," Nwosu said. "I've been there so many times. It's basically in my backyard."
Nwosu will be expected to contribute to a defense that looked solid last year and is getting better. The Chargers added Florida State safety Derwin James with the 17th overall pick Thursday night, while Jones is likely to be a key rotation player on the defensive line.
"I just know that there are a bunch of guys on that defense that are hungry," Nwosu said. "They have a good defense. They've got a lot of playmakers on that defense. It's attack mode. It fits my style of play."
Nwosu has long appeared to be a good fit with the Chargers, who showed particular interest in him during the scouting process and during their workout day in Costa Mesa. Nwosu's speed and versatility on the outside will fill needs for the Chargers, who went into the draft hoping to restock their depth at linebacker.
"He had a great year at USC this year," Chargers general manager Tom Telesco said. "Constantly around the football, whether it was making a tackle behind the line of scrimmage, affecting a play, getting his hands up, knocking the ball down, getting a key sack on third down. He just showed up week after week after week.
"It was easy for us to take notice of him, because we saw him a lot at USC. The fact that he's local is pretty cool. It's not why we took him."
Nwosu will join Hayes Pullard, his fellow USC linebacker and Los Angeles-area native, on the Chargers' roster.
Nwosu made significant progress during his four seasons with the Trojans, emerging as a senior leader and an elite pass-rusher with 9 1/2 sacks for the Pac-12 champions last year. Although he didn't start at USC until late in his sophomore season, his speed and edge rushing abilities made him one of the West Coast's top outside linebackers.
"I showed them what kind of player I am, you know?" Nwosu said. "Being able to show everything I can do, from rushing to covering, to dropping (into coverage and playing) special teams. I just showed I'm a complete package."
The 309-pound Jones fills another need on the Chargers' defensive line, which could use depth and youth. The physically punishing North Carolina State product will join 33-year-old Brandon Mebane and Corey Liuget, who will miss the first four games of the season after failing a doping test.
"Man, they're a pretty strong group," Jones said. "I know they bring it every day, so that means I've got to bring mine every day as well. It's just high standards over there, especially on that D-line, so it's great to have an opportunity to be a part of it.
Jones was a four-year teammate of Bradley Chubb, the North Carolina State defensive lineman who went to the Denver Broncos with the fifth overall pick.
Jones wasn't widely expected to be picked in the third round. His family was planning a party to celebrate the draft on Saturday, but Jones instead will be on a plane from Atlanta to Los Angeles.
"We've got to postpone that," Jones said with a laugh.