With LeCounte in mix, Georgia sets school record for seven-round draft

Richard LeCounte concentrates while participating in a drill.

Credit: Tony Walsh/UGA

Credit: Tony Walsh/UGA

Richard LeCounte concentrates while participating in a drill.

ATHENS -- Richard LeCounte’s mother, Erika Block-LeCounte, made a request on social media before the NFL draft began.

“Please don’t mention that accident anymore,” she said. “He’s fine. That’s over.”

The Georgia Bulldogs’ beloved safety and defensive captain officially put that incident behind him Saturday. His story has now flipped pages to the next chapter for LeCounte, as he was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the fifth round with the 169th pick overall.

A short time later, teammate Trey Hill went in the sixth round with the 190th pick to the Cincinnati Bengals. The Los Angeles Chargers drafted defensive back Mark Webb in the seventh round (241st overall). Their selections gave Georgia nine players chosen in the draft. That sets a school record for most players taken in the seven-round era of the draft, which began in 1994. The previous record of eight was set in 2008 and matched in 2013.

Georgia’s other draftees this year are cornerback Eric Stokes (first round, No. 29, Packers), cornerback Tyson Campbell (second round, No. 33, Jaguars), outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari (second round, No. 50, Giants), linebacker Monty Rice (third round, No. 92, Titans), offensive guard Ben Cleveland (third round, No. 94, Ravens) and tight end Tre’ McKitty (third round, No. 97, Chargers).

This was the fourth consecutive year in which Georgia had a player go in the first round, and the seventh time in the past 10 years.

Despite his mother’s wishes, it’s impossible to talk about LeCounte’s situation without discussing the motorcycle accident that almost took his life last fall. About dusk on Halloween night, Oct. 31, the All-SEC defensive back and preseason All-American had just returned to Athens from the Bulldogs’ road victory at Kentucky when he ran broadside into a car turning left on a U.S. highway. The collision sent LeCounte careening into oncoming traffic where he was struck by another vehicle. He ended up lying unconscious on the centerline.

There was no headlamp on the motocross bike that LeCounte was operating that evening, but the helmet he was wearing probably saved his life. After three days in Piedmont Athens Regional Hospital, LeCounte was released. But his senior season essentially was over. And it had been going extremely well.

He had recorded his third interception in only five games with another one in the 14-3 win over the Wildcats. Playing just half of the No. 8 Bulldogs’ 10 games, LeCounte finished eighth on the team with 26 tackles. He finished his career with 176 tackles and eight interceptions while playing in 43 games with 33 starts.

LeCounte came in for a ceremonial final play in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl victory over Cincinnati. But LeCounte was still showing effects of the accident and a lingering foot injury that resulted when he worked out for NFL scouts just six weeks ago.

On Saturday, the Riceboro resident pronounced himself fully fit and ready to go.

“I’m ready to go,” LeCounte said on a video conference call with the Browns. “It’s been a long journey since that accident last October. That was a scary situation. But god had his hands on me and that was able to shed a lot of light on things that I wasn’t aware. That was really the hardest stage of my life mentally, not being able to go to war with my brothers. But I was able to go through it and get where we are today.”

Hill probably had to wait longer than he expected to hear his name called. But he left Georgia after his junior season because he was able to graduate in only three years and was ready to take on some new challenges.

The first Bulldogs player taken, Eric Stokes, ran a 40-yard dash in 4.25 seconds in front of NFL scouts. That was the fastest time any prospect ran in advance of this year’s draft, the second-fastest since John Ross clocked 4.22 seconds at the 2017 NFL combine. Stokes’ time would have been the fifth fastest in combine history had he been allowed to participate in one. This year’s combine was canceled.

Stokes and Campbell were the fifth and sixth cornerbacks drafted.

Ojulari was widely projected as a mid-first-round pick, but the Marietta High graduate did not hear his name called that early. And that wait continued 90 minutes into the second day of the draft.

But if he was disappointed, Ojulari wasn’t letting on.

“I’m just blessed to be a New York Giant,” Ojulari said in a video conference call with reporters arranged by the Giants. “You know, I was just waiting my turn, waiting my opportunity. Now that it’s here, I’m just happy to be playing for the Giants.”