Former Carroll star defender Jeremiah Attaochu was selected Friday by the San Diego Chargers with the 18th pick of the second round (50th pick overall) of the NFL draft.
In a full circle moment, Attaochu’s selection was announced Friday night by former San Diego Chargers defensive lineman Jamal Williams, who also graduated from Carroll.
Deemed by ESPN’s Todd McShay as the “most underrated player in the entire draft,” Attaochu positioned himself as an early-round pick by racking up 16 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks from the linebacker and defensive end positions to finish as Georgia Tech’s all-time leader in sacks (31.5) and earn third-team all-American honors.
At 6 feet 3, 252 pounds, Attaochu has the build and speed to push past the offensive line and get to the quarterback often. Those skills can be traced back to his days at Carroll, when the Nigerian native first began playing football.
“Entering his junior year, he was about 6-3, 187 pounds and kind of skinny twig, but physically you knew he had the frame to develop into a pro-type guy,” Carroll Coach Rick Houchens said. “The great thing was he made a commitment to get after it.”
By his senior year, Attaochu had grown to a chiseled 225 pounds and possessed an explosiveness off the line that made him nearly impossible to stop in the pass rush — so much so that Houchens would sometimes hold up his index finger during games as a subtle sign of motivation.
“I would put one finger up and say ‘You only got one sack. What are you doing?’ ” Houchens recalled with a laugh. “I would basically taunt him diplomatically because he was really unstoppable coming off the edge and we all knew what he was capable of at his best.”
As a senior in high school, Attaochu displayed this potential by racking up 118 tackles, 14 sacks and four defensive touchdowns and garnering offers from Syracuse, Kansas State, Virginia and Maryland before committing to Georgia Tech. Once there, Attaochu made an immediate impact before breaking out in his junior season for 10 sacks.
This past season, with Georgia Tech in the area to face Virginia Tech for a Thursday night game, Attaochu visited a Carroll practice for the first time since graduating. After soaking up the scene and offering tips to the current Lions, Attoachu gave Houchens a big hug. As he prepared to walk away, he turned back toward Houchens with a stern look and put up his index finger before relaying his thanks.
“He had this serious look on his face and then he said, ‘Man, that stuff you did to us back in the day, it works!’ ” Houchens recalled. “He said, ‘You had me ready. You had me prepared. I was so much better prepared than even guys who had been at Georgia Tech for a year or two when I got there.’
“That meant a lot because getting in college is one thing,” Houchens continued, “but playing in college is another, and he’s shown that if you buckle down and put in the work, you can be in the position he’s in now.”