Size and determination paved the way for Jermaine Eluemunor to migrate from northwest London to the fervent college football stadiums of the Southeastern Conference, but it would take more than just a massive frame and sturdy backbone to reach the sport's highest level.
Eluemunor (eh-LOO-muh-nor) needed to gain all the tools of an NFL offensive lineman.
Jim Turner brought him into his workshop just in time.
London's Jermaine Eluemunor will take part in the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine later this month.
London's Jermaine Eluemunor will take part in the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine later this month.
In the year since Turner was rehired as the offensive line coach at Texas A&M, he transformed Eluemunor from a backup guard to one of the top tackles in the upcoming NFL draft. Eluemunor, 22, is ranked as the fifth-best draft-eligible tackle by Scouts Inc.
"If I didn't have Coach Turner my senior year, I definitely wouldn't be in the position I'm in," Eluemunor said.
Turner firmly believes Eluemunor's stock will rise even further at the NFL scouting combine this week. Eluemunor is one of the least experienced blockers invited to the Indianapolis showcase, but his 6-foot-5, 335-pound body, nimble feet and nail-bending strength should display well when bolstered by the techniques he developed and polished under Turner.
"Now that he's at the combine, his draft status is going to go through the roof," Turner said. "I'll be shocked if he's still around after the third round."
Prior to his senior year, Eluemunor started just one game at Texas A&M -- the Music City Bowl at the end of the 2015 season. Even that was a notable feat considering Eluemunor didn't know American football existed until he was nearly 13 years old, didn't play the sport until moving to the United States in high school and wasn't recruited until after he'd gone the junior college route.
Even after arriving at Texas A&M in 2014 after two years at Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pennsylvania, he redshirted his first season and spent most of the second as a backup. Eluemunor knew more than anyone that he still had a lot to learn.
"I didn't even know how to read a simple defense," he said. "I didn't know what a four-down front was, or a two-down front, or a five-down front. ... I didn't know any of that."
That was 12 months ago, when the Aggies hired Turner for a second stint. He had coached the offensive line at Texas A&M from 2008 to 2011, when he helped recruit and develop three linemen who became NFL first-round draft picks.
He then left for the NFL as the offensive line coach for the Miami Dolphins but was fired in the aftermath of the team's 2013 bullying scandal. Turner refuted allegations that he enabled and contributed to the harassment of offensive lineman Jonathan Martin and filed a defamation lawsuit against the NFL investigator who produced the report that led to his dismissal.
Turner was out of football until the University of Cincinnati hired him to coach running backs in January 2016, and the Aggies stepped in and brought him back to College Station a month later.
Turner's return to Texas A&M got off to a rocky start when he and another assistant were suspended by the team for two weeks for using sexual double entendres and language deemed offensive in a slideshow during the annual "Chalk Talk for Women" fundraiser in July.
Eluemunor wasn't aware of Turner's past when they met, but he does remember their first conversation. Turner told Eluemunor that he had watched him play in the Music City Bowl against Louisville and believed he had first-round potential. Eluemunor just needed a deeper understanding of how to play the position, and he desperately needed playing time.
He soaked in every word Turner offered during meetings and practices and then dropped by his office on the way home to watch more film.
"The way he taught me things was so simple," Eluemunor said. "He broke things down in ways no one's ever shown me before. ... The game used to be real fast for me, but now it slowed down to the point [that] it's like walking, because I understand it so much."
Eluemunor has the ideal makeup to play right tackle, Turner said, but is athletic enough to play guard. Because of injuries along the Aggies' line, Eluemunor was used at both positions during his senior season.
"He's just strong as a bull," Turner said. "You could drive over him with a pickup truck. He'd probably just get up and brush it off and get back in the huddle."
Turner is aware that Eluemunor's lack of experience will be a concern for NFL scouts, but Turner believes Eluemunor can use it to his advantage.
"I told him, 'You need to highlight that for the scouts. Don't hide that.'" Turner said. "They're looking for an investment. They're trying to spend their money correctly. When people realize he's only played, and started, one year in major college football, and to play the way he did and to develop. ... If you watch the [season-opening] UCLA game to the final game, his development is through the roof. That's just him playing. That's just getting the snaps that he needed to get."
Eluemunor's initial exposure to football came in October 2007, when he watched the first NFL game played outside North America. He came across the contest at London's Wembley Stadium -- the New York Giants against the Dolphins -- on TV and was immediately drawn in. He played rugby at the time, and football seemed very similar, just more physical. He also thought the helmets and shoulder pads made the players look strong and intimidating.
"He's just strong as a bull. You could drive over him with a pickup truck. He'd probably just get up and brush it off and get back in the huddle."
He continued to indulge in football every chance he got.
"All the time he was on the computer, looking at everything about it," his mother, Sarah, said. Then arrived an opportunity to move to the United States with his father, John. Eluemunor arrived at Morris Knolls High School near Denville, New Jersey, late in his freshman year, quickly adapted to the new environment and played his first football game as a sophomore.
"When we got here, he was going online looking for a coach too, a coach to teach him the game," John said. "He was not like a young guy who would be into girls, going out. He wasn't interested. He'd sit at home from morning to night watching games, conditioning his body, trying to eat the right stuff. I was so proud of him."
Eluemunor received some devastating news following his sophomore season, as he and his father were forced to move back to England for economic reasons.
After a few frustrating months, he begged to move back to the United States and was given another opportunity under the condition he graduate from college and take football as far as possible.
Morris Knolls isn't considered a powerhouse in football, but the Golden Eagles do have one of the best wrestling programs in the state. Eluemunor played offensive line for the football team, growing to 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds, and also posted a 30-7 record in wrestling as a senior and reached the state finals.
"He had a lot of scholarship offers in wrestling," his father said. "He had a lot of people calling me."
Determined to keep playing football, Eluemunor marketed himself to college programs, sending hundreds of emails to coaches around the country before landing at Lackawanna. Eluemunor continued to develop during his two years at the junior college and was offered scholarships by several major programs. He was overwhelmed by the sudden attention and committed to UCLA during his first official visit.
A month later, he changed his mind during a trip to Arkansas and committed to the Razorbacks. That lasted about three months before he changed his mind again and committed to Texas A&M.
"I went from not being recruited and no one wanting me to everyone wanting me," he said. "I was really excited, and I didn't know what the recruiting process was, exactly, so I just said, 'Yeah, I could go there. Yeah, I could go there.' It was a learning experience."
After disappearing back into the shadows at Texas A&M for the next two years, Eluemunor reemerged as a new player last fall, catching opposing coaches by surprise.
The turning point arrived in the fourth game of the season against Arkansas, a team that came in ranked No. 17 by the Associated Press. Eluemunor and the rest of the line dominated, as the 10th-ranked Aggies rushed for 366 yards in the 45-24 win.
"If you watched him in the SEC," Turner said, "he could throw people around."
Turner pointed to Eluemunor's size, strength, speed and light feet as the biggest positives heading into the draft combine, but he's especially impressed with his pupil's wide build.
"With width comes strength," Turner said. "There are some 300-pound guys that are just thin-hipped and they've got no strength, but strength is his No. 1 quality."
Turner would know. Although his stay in the NFL was cut short, he understands what coaches are looking for in offensive linemen. He's convinced Eluemunor has what it takes to make it at the next level.
"The only thing he doesn't have is the experience, but I don't think that matters now," Turner said. "I'd rather have a guy that lacked a little bit of experience but had all of the tools, and that's what he has."
Courtesy of Turner's workshop.
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