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Akron Zips football players discuss NFL dreams

Three in particular have a shot to play at the next level.
Credit: Matt Marton/AP
Akron linebacker Josh Ward (8) celebrates against Northwestern during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Evanston, Ill., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018.

AKRON, Ohio — It hasn't always gotten the coverage it deserves, but the University of Akron certainly has a rich football history.

The great John Heisman coached at the school (then known as Buchtel College) for two seasons, and others to walk the sidelines have included Gerry Faust (former head man at Notre Dame) and Terry Bowden (Auburn). Linebacker and special teams standout Chase Blackburn won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants, and defensive end Jason Taylor is now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

With the NFL Draft this weekend, several current Zips were waiting to see if their name would be called. Perhaps the most notable of them was linebacker John Lako, one of the leading tacklers in the country.

"If I do get picked in a round, that's great," Lako told Matt Kaulig. "If I don't, I'll find a way to make it work. That's kind of how I've had to do it my whole career."

As a senior in 2019, Lako tallied 138 total tackles (9.5 for a loss) and a sack, and also returned an interception 64 yards for a touchdown. He says he's able to run the 40-yard dash in about 4.5 seconds, not bad for a linebacker.

"There was a stigma on me that I couldn't run," he joked. "I've gotten multiple responses off of that."

Joining Lako in the linebacking core is Josh Ward, who led Akron with 2.5 sacks last season. For his own workouts, he's had to get a little creative during the coronavirus pandemic.

"I've been using paint cans to squat," he laughed, adding that everything shut down right before the Zips' scheduled pro day. "Obviously I can't just go to the gym and train like I used to."

Of course, every defense needs a good secondary, and the Zips had that in defensive back Alvin Davis Jr. The 21-year-old was named to the All-MAC team and broke up two passes while registering five tackles for a loss.

"I'm a playmaker," he said. "I'm just consistently around the ball in clutch time. I try to be that playmaker that can change the game."

None of the three players heard their name called during the seven rounds of the draft, but their journey isn't over yet: All teams will be inquiring to all undrafted free agents about possible contracts and training camp invites. In the past, several of those players (such as Warren Moon and John Randle) have gone on to make the Hall of Fame.

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