Throughout the offseason, The Game Haus will be spotlighting some under-the-radar prospects hoping to continue their football careers on the professional level – preferably in the NFL.
Most hail from schools outside the traditional Power 5, and even from the FCS level. However, their heart and determination to reach the NFL, or any professional football league, for that matter, is larger and greater than most recognizable NFL prospects looking to make their dream a reality.
Today, Leon McQuaker is up, linebacker from New Mexico State
If there’s one thing to know about Leon McQuaker, it’s that he has a nose for getting where he wants to be.
It started with earning a starting linebacker spot at New Mexico State as a junior and continued while becoming one of the top tacklers in the country during his senior season of 2018. McQuaker truly has a nose for the ball, and the same for bettering himself.
He hopes that will be the case while trying to pursue a career in professional football, hopefully in the NFL.
“I think things turned out pretty good for me,” McQuaker said of his college career. “I’d been waiting for my moment, and waiting for my opportunity, and just try to make the most of it.”
Making things happen
McQuaker made his own moments, first as a standout defender on the JUCO ranks with Eastern Arizona, then for the Aggies. He worked his way to becoming a starter as a junior at New Mexico State, and finished that season with 42 tackles, three sacks and the Defensive MVP award from his team’s Arizona Bowl victory (where he recorded 13 solo tackles).
In 2018, McQuaker stepped up his game, finishing third on the team with 120 tackles. He also ranked among the top 10 in the nation averaging 12.0 tackles per contest.
Yet, even with his progression on the field, McQuaker still needs to make a name for himself off it. He’s not a highly ranked draft prospect at the moment, but continues to put in the hours of training, conditioning and lifting to better himself and perform well at New Mexico State’s upcoming pro day.
And that’s fine.
Like many smaller-school athletes with big-time pro football dreams, he knows the odds are against him at the moment. It’s almost as if McQuaker thrives when knowing he must prove others wrong.
“If anything, I’m trying to go harder,” he said. “I’m an underdog, and I’ll take the same approach I did in college. I plan to give them my all.”
The NFL scouts McQuaker has spoken with say they like his speed and knack for getting to the ball. They’d like to see him more in drop-back coverage against the pass, something he did not do a lot at New Mexico State.
What they might have already seen is McQuaker’s heart – and will to succeed.
“I’m playing for a professional job,” he added. “I don’t think (NFL scouts) are expecting what they are going to see from me. Given the chance, I will be ready.”