Arlington is on the map as the home of a General Motors plant, Six Flags, UT Arlington, the Dallas Cowboys and the Texas Rangers. It might be able to add a new designation tonight: Home of the NFL’s No. 1 overall pick.
Luke Joeckel, an Arlington High product, will do the city proud when his name is called by Commissioner Roger Goodell early in the NFL Draft. With 25 family members in New York and another 500 with him in spirit at Shady Valley Golf Club in Arlington, Joeckel will become the highest-drafted player ever from the city.
“There are a lot of good athletes that come out of Arlington every year who are Division I signees,” Joeckel said Wednesday. “Being the highest pick out of all those guys would be a huge honor.”
The Joeckels have deep roots in Arlington, with both sets of Luke’s grandparents still residing there. Dave Joeckel, Luke’s father, was an offensive lineman at Arlington High School and then Texas Tech. Dave Joeckel came as close to the NFL as training camp with the Denver Broncos in 1983, John Elway’s rookie season.
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Luke Joeckel could be a first for Arlington, Texas A&M and the Joeckel family.
“We like the town. We love the schools,” Dave Joeckel said. “We’re huge Arlington fans, and we’re glad Luke is bringing whatever attention he is to the city.”
Only three offensive tackles — Ron Yary (1968, Minnesota Vikings), Orlando Pace (1997, Rams) and Jake Long (2008, Miami Dolphins) — have gone No. 1 overall. Yet, the Kansas City Chiefs appear to have narrowed their decision to Joeckel or Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher.
Joeckel said he has had no recent contact with the Chiefs. He had private workouts with Kansas City, Philadelphia and Oakland, and he visited Jacksonville. Those are the first four teams in the draft order.
“I’m not expecting to go No. 1; I’m just hoping to go No. 1,” Joeckel said. “It’s going to be great no matter what.”
For a city with a population of almost 400,000, Arlington has not had a rich tradition of NFL players from its high schools. Baseball players Vernon Wells, Matt Blank, Ben Grieve, Hunter Pence and Todd Von Poppel, along with Olympic gold medalist Jeremy Wariner, who also played football at Lamar High School, have had higher-profile pro careers than any NFL player from Arlington.
Mark Clayton is the highest-drafted NFL player from Arlington. Clayton, a receiver at Sam Houston High School and Oklahoma, went 22nd overall to the Baltimore Ravens in 2005. Guy Morriss arguably was the city’s best-ever NFL player. A tight end at Sam Houston High School, he was a second-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1973 out of TCU and started 173 games in the offensive line in his 15-year career.
Only 16 players from Arlington high schools are known to have made NFL rosters. In addition to Joeckel, Bowie’s Kip Edwards, a cornerback from Missouri, and Martin’s Lane Taylor, an offensive lineman from Oklahoma State, are draft-eligible this year. Edwards and Taylor, though, might have to go the free-agent route.
Four players from Arlington high schools were on NFL rosters last season — Lamar’s Fred Jackson, Seguin’s Jamell Fleming, Grace Prep’s Justin Forsett and Bowie’s Ty Nsekhe.
“It is surprising we haven’t had more,” said Jackson, a running back for the Buffalo Bills who is one of five players from Lamar ever to be on an NFL roster. “I do know it is hard to get into the professional ranks. There are a lot of people out there trying to do it, and sometimes guys just don’t get their opportunity. It’s tough.”
Ronald Burns, Cedric Hilliard, Joe Jon Finley, Brandon Foster and Ricky Brown are among the standout high school players from the city who never made it in the NFL.
Joeckel will become only the second player from Arlington High School in the NFL, joining kicker Ali Haji-Sheikh. That doesn’t come as a great surprise to Colts coach Scott Peach.
“I mentioned his senior year in high school that, if he stayed healthy, I believed he would be a top-10 pick,” said Peach, whose father, Eddy, was the longtime coach at Lamar. “The reason I believed that was because he was the best lineman ever to walk through the city of Arlington.
“The second thing is his parents did a great job with him. He has a great head on his shoulders. Nothing in his character was going to hold him back.
“The third thing is he was a phenomenal left tackle, and I believed that is where he was going to stay. That’s where the big money is in the NFL.
“I had never had an NFL kid before, but I did believe he is exactly what one looks like.”