ROGERS PARK — Lane Tech graduate Laken Tomlinson was selected by the Detroit Lions with the 28th pick in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday night.
The former Duke offensive lineman was projected as high as a second-round pick, but the Lions surprised experts with the first-round selection. Tomlinson was selected first-team All-American and first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference as a senior in 2014.
The Lions traded down from the 23rd pick. They allowed 45 sacks last year and were one of the league's worst rushing offense at 88.9 yards per game, according to the Detroit Free Press.
"I was just waiting to see who my new team would be," Tomlinson told the Free Press Thursday night. "It means a lot to Lane Tech, it means a lot to Duke."
Tomlinson, a native of Jamaica, moved to Rogers Park with his mother, two brothers and sister when he was 10. He brought his mother, Audrey Wilson, to the draft Thursday night.
"Leaving behind everything you know is a scary experience," Tomlinson told DNAinfo in 2013. "Just moving to a completely new environment, not knowing anything about it, it's scary."
In eighth grade, while a student at Jordan Community School in Rogers Park, Tomlinson was selected to the Youth Guidance Program, which pairs disadvantaged children throughout 60 Chicago Public Schools with families who mentor them, help them stay on track in school and gain social skills. Tomlinson was paired with Bob Sperling, a partner at the prestigious Downtown Winston & Strawn law firm who also was a member of the Board of Trustees at the University of Illinois.
"I'm on Cloud 10," Sperling told DNAinfo Thursday night. "We both cried [after he was drafted]. It's been a long journey for us. We've been through a lot. He has developed beyond my wildest expectations."
Somewhat similar to the story of Michael Oher in the movie "The Blind Side," Tomlinson became a de facto member of the Sperling family, making frequent trips to their nearly 5,000-square-foot home just steps from Lake Michigan in Glencoe.
Football school: Lions G Laken Tomlinson is 3rd Duke player selected in 1st round, joining Mike Junkin in 1987 and Bob Matheson in 1967.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 1, 2015
While at Lane Tech, Tomlinson was named the 23rd-best offensive guard in the nation by Scout.com, in addition to several other national honors. He chose Duke University over several other Division I schools.
Tomlinson was voted a Duke captain this past season, and he was a candidate for the Outland Trophy, awarded to the country's top interior lineman.
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