Former Oconee County standout Zach Mettenberger has an NFL home.
The Tennessee Titans traded up in the sixth round to draft the LSU quarterback with the No. 178 overall pick.
“I took a long hard road to get where I’m at and now I’m an NFL player,” Mettenberger told reporters in Tennessee.
Mettenberger began his college career at Georgia before being dismissed after redshirting his freshman season.
Mitch Olson, who coached Mettenberger for his senior season at Oconee County, sent him a congratulatory text Saturday after he was selected.
“Hey, I think it’s great,” Olson said. “He got drafted. It’s a kid’s dream come true no matter what round it is. He’s lived through some adversity and done a great job. Now he’s going to play professional football close to home. I think his parents could probably drive up to see every game. I think that’s a cool thing.”
Mettenberger was the 10th quarterback to be selected and the third of the high-profile Southeastern Conference quarterbacks to be selected after Georgia’s Aaron Murray and Alabama’s AJ McCarron went in the fifth round.
“I have no control over why things went the way they did,” said Mettenberger, who was in Scottsboro, Ala., at the home of his aunt and uncle during the draft. “All I know is I have an opportunity to be a part of a great franchise and make the most of it.”
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen said before Mettenberger was taken that there were concerns surrounding him due to his diluted drug test sample at the NFL combine while recovering from a torn ACL and character questions that arose in 2010 when he plead guilty to two counts of misdemeanor sexual battery. He spent a season at Butler (Kan.) Community College before transferring to LSU.
Mettenberger said he spoke to the Titans about the spring break incident “that happened a long time ago.”
“The jury is still out on me,” Mettenberger said. “I’m going to do everything I can to prove everyone wrong that I am a great player and a great person. More importantly that I am a great person. I really want to show that to everyone.”
Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said the Titans moved up because if felt like others teams were also trying to move up to get him.
Tennessee traded its seventh round pick to Washington to get the 6-foot-5, 232-pound Mettenberger. Whisehnunt called it a “low-risk high-reward type of situation,”
Mettenberger is one of the select few quarterbacks from Athens-area schools to go in the NFL draft.
Jeff Pyburn from Cedar Shoals, who played at Georgia, was a fifth round pick of Buffalo in 1980, but played baseball.
Andy Johnson of Athens High School and Georgia was a fifth round pick in 1974 by New England as a running back.
Pro Football Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton from Athens High School was a third round pick of the Vikings in 1961.
Mettenberger is the first Oconee County NFL draft pick. His mother Tammy is an administrative assistant for the Georgia football program.
Mettenberger ranked fourth in the nation last season in passing efficiency when he threw for 3,082 yards and 22 touchdowns with eight interceptions as a senior at LSU. He completed 64.9 percent of his passes and averaged 16.1 yards per completion, second best in the nation.
He became just the third player in LSU history to throw for 3,000 yards in a single season.
“You can argue about where he went in the draft all you want, but at the end of the day, Tennessee is a great place for him,” said Mike Mayock, draft analyst for the NFL Network. “Big-time arm talent. He’s got to speed the process up with his feet and his decision-making.”
The Titans starting quarterback is Jake Locker and Mayock expects Mettenberger to compete for the starting job in 2015.
“I’m going to come every day with a hard hat and lunch pail,” Mettenberger said.