If you’ve followed Kennesaw State football at all, you’ve heard of Justin Sumpter. The talented wide receiver is on the Falcons’ radar this draft season, and for good reason.
Wide receiver isn’t a tremendous need for Atlanta, with talent like Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Mohamed Sanu Sr. camped out in the top three spots on the depth chart. So why should the Falcons consider bringing in Sumpter, who earned All-Conference honors three times during his Kennesaw State career? It’s easier just to show you:
Sumpter, a Georgia native, took the time to speak with The Falcoholic about his draft preparation process, how he might fit in Atlanta, and what it would be like to play for his hometown team.
Why should NFL teams be considering Sumpter? Aside from his production in a triple option, run-first offense in college — Sumpter had 111 catches for 1,989 yards and 21 touchdowns over his time with the Owls — and his 6’3, 217-pound frame, Sumpter shared some other compelling reasons.
“Great hands, selfless, and great personality — you won’t have any problems with me in the locker room or anything like that,” Sumpter said.
The months between a draft prospect’s final college game and the actual event are filled with preparation. Sumpter has been enjoying that.
“It’s been pretty fun, to say the least. Just getting to meet new guys, going to new areas and working out, doing different things that I haven’t been doing my whole college career,” Sumpter said. “So just the whole thing, doing this whole process, has actually been pretty fun. It’s stressful at times, but overall, it’s very enjoyable. You are preparing for a job interview when you’re out preparing for a pro day and everything like that, so I take it in a serious manner. But just the fact that I’m even getting this opportunity to be able to do this, it’s been great and really a blessing to be able to say that I’m preparing for the NFL Draft.”
Sumpter was invited to the Falcons’ local pro day on April 5. As an Atlanta local who grew up following the Falcons, that was a special experience.
“That was a great experience, too, being able to go out and practice or try out, in a way, and show my skills for the home team — the team I’ve grown up going to their games,” Sumpter said. “I had season tickets one season. I’m really familiar with them more than any other team out there, just because I’m from Georgia, so I’ve been to some of the games, grew up watching the guys ... just knowing that one day I might be on the same team as them, it’s really a great feeling. Just going out there, being out there with guys from the SEC and Big Ten and things of that nature and showing that I can compete with them as well, it really just shows the hard work I’ve been putting in over this whole time.”
This probably won’t surprise you. Like so many other folks who grew up in the Atlanta metro area or have followed this team for some time, there’s one player who stands out in his memory, and it’s Michael Vick. Why?
“Really just his whole style of play,” Sumpter said. “It looked like he was a video game out there, just running around making big plays. He had a rocket for an arm, and usually people who are scrambling quarterbacks don’t have that type of arm. And then just the fact that he was playing here in Atlanta, so I was able to go to a bunch of his camps growing up, so I’ve actually met him a couple of times from just going to his camps, and he’s a good person. So having somebody like that around and being able to meet them is really motivational.”
It’s no secret that the Falcons have arguably the strongest receiver group in football today. Playing with those guys would be a valuable learning experience for Sumpter.
“I’m really just excited about it, because those are some of the top receivers in the game right now,” Sumpter said of Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. “Me, coming from the triple option, I do have a lot to learn as a receiver. So being around those guys I feel like I would learn so much — just their releases, how to approach game situations, and how to read the DBs and have leverage and stuff like that. So I feel like it would only be a positive thing for me just to be around such a strong receiving corps.”
So how would Sumpter fit into the Falcons’ offensive scheme?
“Well, they would probably develop me into more of a route-running receiver, but I feel like they’d mainly use me just for the blocking the majority of the time, like on screens,” Sumpter said. “And I would have no problem with that ... laying a big block for Julio, he’s sprinting up the sideline for a touchdown. It would feel just as good as me doing it myself.”
Sumpter could be a Day 3 pick or someone to snag as an undrafted free agent if he’s available when the draft wraps up. If the Falcons managed to land him, they’ll be getting a talented player with incredible size and hands and a team-first attitude — and a hometown guy to boot.