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USC’s Drake London is the 2022 NFL Draft’s Mike Evans
USC Trojans wide receiver Drake London (15) celebrates a first down against the Washington State Cougars in the second half at Gesa Field at Martin Stadium. The Trojans won 45-14. (Courtesy: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports)

USC’s Drake London is the 2022 NFL Draft’s Mike Evans

Editor’s note: The Atlanta Falcons selected WR Drake London with the No. 8 pick in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft on April 28.

MOORPARK, Calif. (BVM) – Drake London experienced plenty of growing pains during his adolescence. Literally. 

The projected first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft entered Moorpark High School in 2015 at 5-foot-10 and played quarterback for the Musketeers as a dual-sport freshman. London took basketball just as seriously as football at the time, and during the summer following his freshman year, he grew four to five inches in that span. 

“He went through a lot of actual growing pains where his knees and lower back were really hurting because he grew so fast,” Moorpark head football coach Ryan Huisenga said of London. “Going into his sophomore year, depending on his basketball schedule in the spring and summer, it was very hit or miss with practice and stuff. It really was just about how his legs felt, how his knees and lower back felt.” 

London played all over the place on junior varsity as a sophomore, spending time at safety, wide receiver and running back, but it was during the spring season leading up his junior campaign that Huisenga began to notice something different. 

By then, London’s rapid growth spurt had slowed down and he was relatively pain free as a result of it. The physical changes became apparent to Huisenga and everyone else. 

“His first few days at spring practice that year, he was like a different guy; he was a different monster out there,” Huisenga said. “Part of it was that he’d gotten a little taller, but he was getting more comfortable in his body and you could tell he was playing pretty much pain free.” 

The strong spring season set the stage for London’s spectacular junior campaign where he caught 51 passes for 1,032 yards (20.2 yards per catch) and 11 touchdowns. He turned around to average 19.8 points, 11.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists on the basketball court for Moorpark as a junior. 

Before that special season, though, Huisenga remembers a moment he and London shared one morning in the weight room. 

“God works in mysterious ways,” Huisenga said. 

Huisenga had NFL Network on the television and an hour-long biography on Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans was airing. The Galveston, Texas native averaged 18.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists as a high school senior and didn’t play football until his senior season. Evans caught 25 passes for 648 yards and seven touchdowns during his only football season at the high school level and went on to star at wide receiver for Texas A&M before being drafted No. 7 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft. 

“I was telling Drake like, ‘that’s your guy; that’s who you’re like,’” Huisenga said of Evans. “It’s scary how much he is like that guy in a lot of ways.”

London received 20 offers from college football programs after his junior season, including Pac-12 schools close to home like UCLA, California and others. But basketball offers came from just two schools: USC and newly crowned national champion Virginia where head coach Tony Bennett promised to get the Cavaliers’ football program involved. 

Both London and his father grew up USC fans, and with the rare opportunity to play both football and basketball at his dream school, the dual-sport star committed to the Trojans prior to his senior year. Soon after, London proved why he was a force to be reckoned with at both sports. 

He grabbed 62 receptions for 1,089 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior, finishing as the No. 2 wide receiver in CIF-SS Division 3. He then scored 902 points, averaged 29.2 points, 11.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists while his points total stands No. 3 all-time for a single season in the county. 

“It’s really easy as a coach when your best players are the hardest workers on the team,” Huisenga said. “In practice, they don’t take reps off or anything like that and they set the tone for everybody. He (London) did a great job of that.” 

London wasted no time bringing that same energy to Los Angeles. 

He was a key contributor at wide receiver for the Trojans as a true freshman, starting nine games while racking up 567 yards and five touchdowns on 39 receptions. He joined the 2020 USC men’s basketball team and saw brief action in three games, but that would be his final season on a basketball court. His future on the gridiron was too bright not to focus on. 

London impressed once again as a sophomore, starting all six games of a shortened 2020 season with 33 receptions for 502 yards and three touchdowns. He was named to the 2020 All-Pac-12 second team and flashed his supreme upside with a game-high eight catches for 125 yards against Arizona State which included a game-winning 21-yard touchdown grab over two defenders on fourth down with 1:20 to play. 

The former Moorpark star proved to be among the nation’s best wide receivers as a junior in 2021. He snatched 88 receptions for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns before an ankle injury in Game 8 cut his season short. He was on pace to break Biletnikoff winner Marqise Lee’s 2012 USC season records in catches (118) and receiving yards (1,721) before his injury. Despite a season cut short, he was a semifinalist for the 2021 Biletnikoff Award and Maxwell Award and named the 2021 Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year. 

“What he did the last three seasons at USC was exactly what he did for us during his junior and senior years,” Huisenga said. “What I mean by that is there were things in high school that he’d do and you’d be like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe he did that.’ Well, he was doing the same thing in college so he didn’t stay status quo; he’s very intrinsically motivated. 

“He didn’t get much of an opportunity in basketball so when he made the decision to focus on football, you saw that evolution of him as a route runner even more than when he was coming in.” 

The move to focus solely on football has paid dividends as London is on the verge of becoming a first-round draft pick. 

The 6-foot-5, freakishly athletic London is ranked as a top three wide receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft on most draft boards and he’s projected to be taken somewhere in the first round. His jump ball skills, body control and ability to create after the catch makes him exactly what today’s NFL is looking for. 

The immense talent is evident and it’s why a handful of franchises would be willing to use their first-round selection on London. But it’s his character that will allow him not only to make it, but stick around in the NFL for a long time. 

In fact, London could very well end up being a top-10 pick like the wide receiver (Evans) his high school coach saw in him years ago. 

“If he wasn’t 6-foot-5, you would have no idea who he is because he never calls attention to himself; that’s just not the way he is,” Huisenga said. “The transition for him to the NFL, it’s never easy, but it won’t be as big of a deal as it will be for some individuals because of how grounded he is.” 

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