From the OAC to the NFL, London Fletcher is Ready to Hang ‘Em Up

Photo is courtesy of USA Today Sports Images/http://sports.yahoo.com/ Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

Edited by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)

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Just like all of you out there, we here at ‘Our Sports Report’ have our own blogs that we follow on a daily basis for the latest in sports and life happenings. One of my favorite sports blogs to check out is, “Sports As Told By A Girl” and a talented writer/sports fan named Ashleigh Binder runs it.  As I was reading one of the latest from Ms. Binder the other day, I came across a story of hers that not only intrigued me, but hit close to home as well.

A few days ago, Washington Redskin’s linebacker and All-NFL good guy, London Fletcher, announced that he is 99 percent certain that this NFL season will be his last.  When it comes to NFL linebackers, household names have included Brian Urlacher, Ray Lewis and Clay Matthews. Whether Fletcher has earned that special honor or not, the successful and respectful NFL veteran has come a long way from his days in University Heights.

Most NFL players come from big name college football programs like USC, Alabama, Texas, Ohio State and Oregon, but not Fletcher.  The Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph graduate originally took his talents to Pennsylvania at Saint Francis University to play basketball, but then decided to come back home to play basketball and football for John Carroll University in near by University Heights, Ohio. Most of you may not recognize John Carroll University because it is not spoken of on ESPN every 20 seconds nor is it even a Division I school.  John Carroll University is a Division III school near Cleveland that competes in the Ohio Athletic Conference with other schools such as Mount Union, Otterbein and Baldwin Wallace.  You may have heard of Cecil Shorts III and Pierre Garcon, but London Fletcher was the first real Division III player to rise from the OAC and become an NFL star.

For those of you that have read this blog before, you all know that I am a graduate of Otterbein University and I spent most of my college days working for the campus radio and television stations in the sports department.  I was blessed to travel all over the countryside announcing sporting events and even enjoyed my visits and adventures to John Carroll. After my first visit to JCU, I realized that London Fletcher was a former Blue Streak and it intrigued me to see how a four-time NFL Pro Bowl selection and a Super Bowl Champion made it from a small college in Cleveland.

After a solid college career, Fletcher was not drafted in the 1998 NFL Draft, but he was signed by the St. Louis Rams as an undrafted free agent after totaling 202 tackles and receiving the Division III National Linebacker of the Year honor during his senior season at John Carroll. Fletcher had a successful rookie campaign and even won a Super Bowl with the Rams during the 1999 season.  The former Blue Streak spent four seasons in St. Louis and then went to the Buffalo Bills for another five.  Then in 2007, Fletcher joined the Washington Redskins where he has been a four-time Pro Bowler, unquestionable leader of the team and has continued his NFL record for most consecutive games played by a linebacker (255). During my four years at a Division III college, I witnessed some great athletes and then some very average ones as well. They may be different than a Division I athlete, but their goal of playing professional athletics one day is all the same. In this day and age of professional football, London Fletcher has shown that the jump from Division III to the NFL can be done and it isn't the school they are looking at, it's your skill and who you are as a person that takes you to the next level. London Fletcher has always been one of those guys that I have respected for his talent, dedication, humble attitude and where he has come from. After 16 seasons in the NFL, Fletcher proved to us all that no matter where you come from, you have just as good a chance to succeed as anybody out there. If this is truly the end, then I would personally like to offer up congratulations to Fletcher on a very successful NFL career and for making a name for the Ohio Athletic Conference on the biggest of stages. For showing us that anything is possible, thank you London.

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