With a few notable changes to its execution, the 2020 NFL Draft went on as scheduled last weekend. The event lacked the anticipated pomp and circumstance of being held live on the Las Vegas Strip, but the dreams realized over the weekend were every bit as real as in years past.
From a local perspective, it was a relatively quiet draft weekend with just one selection. However, three other local products signed undrafted free agent deals, giving Long Beach four new faces in the NFL ranks.
The lone Long Beach native to have his name called during the draft was former St. Anthony Saint Curtis Weaver, who was chosen in the fifth round by the Miami Dolphins. An All-American defensive end out of Boise State, Weaver showcased impressive production during his college career, setting the Mountain West Conference record with 34 career sacks. Currently listed at 6-foot-2, 265 lbs., Weaver has grown a lot since his days patrolling Clark Field, but his head coach at St. Anthony, Mario Morales, always knew he had the potential to make it to the NFL.
“No doubt he was a special talent for us. We knew that he was going to play at the next level,” Morales recalled. “He has the fire and the hunger to always get better. He’s always been athletic, but he’s come so far from when he left high school to being at Boise State. We always knew he was going to become a better football player but to see him do it, it’s been awesome.”
After he was selected by the Dolphins, Weaver’s jovial personality was highlighted during his scouting report by ABC. That fun-loving nature was always part of his personality during his high school days, and he’s sure to bring that sense of fun to the locker room in Miami.
“He’s always been a fun guy to be around,” Morales said. “Some people are critical of him for having too much fun, but quite frankly, we enjoyed it. Because we knew that he was trying to keep everyone balanced with football and keeping everybody from getting too tightly wound. Then he would turn it on in practice and nobody could block the guy.”
Shortly after the draft, a trio of local standouts signed with pro teams as undrafted free agents. Former Wilson High wide receiver Zimari Manning signed a deal with the Denver Broncos, where he’ll look to prove that his record-breaking numbers at Division II Tarleton State were legit.
Long Beach Poly continued its tradition of sending players to the NFL as two former Jackrabbits signed over the weekend. Cornerback Kobe Williams inked with the Jacksonville Jaguars after a solid career at Arizona State, and quarterback Josh Love signed with the hometown Los Angeles Rams following his college career at San Jose State.
Williams was a standout at Poly and LBCC before making it to ASU.
Love went from walk-on to starter with the Spartans, winning 2019 Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year honors while moving into third place on SJSU’s career passing yardage list.
“It feels like I’m really living my dream now,” said Love of signing his professional contract. “It hasn’t fully hit me yet, I think that will happen once we get to practice, but it’s a dream come true and I get to play at home. It’s crazy.”
Love had a strong connection with the Rams’ coaching staff, including new offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell who was hired in January. Love is currently living in his childhood home in Mission Viejo, which would leave him about a 15-minute drive from the Rams’ training camp home at UC Irvine. With the current shutdown in place, Love’s location should provide additional benefits from the Rams once social distancing restrictions are eased.
“They really liked how I’m local,” Love explained. “Whenever they’re allowed to, I’m right down the street so they can come meet me and work with me whenever that is. So it’s just a really good deal, a really good situation.”
The NFL has yet to release its preseason schedule for the upcoming 2020 campaign. That announcement is set to be made sometime prior to May 9.