By Cameron Freeman and Tyler Williams
The talk of football talent in Newton County doesn’t just begin and end with middle, high school and college players. Our area boasts a handful of NFL-caliber athletes as well. Here’s a capsulized look at Newton County’s NFL representation for the coming season.
Akeem Hunt: As a former Newton Rams and Purdue standout entering his third NFL season, Hunt originally signed as an undrafted free agent (UFA) with the Giants before moving to the Ravens. He was only an offseason member of both teams before moving to his current spot on the Houston Texans roster. Hunt is looking to maintain a roster spot on a loaded Texans offense with a lot of depth at the running back position.
Demetrius McCray: A former three-sport star and 2008 Newton County Athlete of the Year, the Newton High School product and seventh round draft pick out of Appalachian State will be entering his fifth season after spending the first four years of his career with the Jacksonville Jaguars. McCray will now compete for a roster spot with the Seattle Seahawks as a member of the vaunted “Legion of Boom” defense.
Sheldon Rankins: The 6-foot-2, 305-pound former Eastside elite defensive tackle and 2016 first round pick is entering his second season with the New Orleans Saints. A leg injury derailed a promising rookie season causing him to miss the first half of the season. He would bounce back the next half recording four sacks and 20 tackles. With his leg injury behind him, Rankins is working to make an even bigger impact on a Saints defense looking to take a leap and propel New Orleans into the playoffs in the loaded and highly competitive NFC South.
Donte Blackmon: A first team all-region athlete as a defensive back and a wide receiver, the former Eastside High and originally Appalachian State product became the first player in Kennesaw State history to sign with an NFL team inking an undrafted free agent deal with the Indianapolis Colts after attending their rookie minicamp. The 2016 Big South Conference interceptions leader looks to maintain a roster spot and be in a position to contribute in the generally wide open AFC South division.