SFU’s Jerome projected to be drafted on Day 3

Born in New York City, raised in Florida and then educated collegiately in Loretto, Saint Francis football player Lorenzo Jerome is a well-traveled young man. He’s about to add one more destination to his itinerary — the NFL.

One of the Red Flash’s most heralded players in recent memory is projected to be selected in the NFL Draft on Day 3 — Saturday — based on what publication you read or what draft expert you listen to on radio or television. The first round begins tonight in Philadelphia and rounds 2-3 and 4-7 will run on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

“My favorite team growing up was the New York Giants because I was born in Manhattan,” Jerome, a star defensive back and four-time Northeast Conference first-teamer, said. “I always wanted to play in the NFL. I dreamed about it since I was playing backyard football. I used to play my PlayStation 1 and the old-school Madden when Ricky Williams was with the Saints.”

Now, depending on who takes him and where they take him, Jerome will find himself, probably on defense, trying to stop maybe a Mark Ingram of the Saints. Red Flash coach Chris Villarrial, who played at IUP and was drafted into the NFL where he played 11 seasons for the Bears and Bills, feels James is more than a defender.

“I think it would be hard for teams to ignore what he does with the ball in his hands. He took over many games for us with his skill and leadership of the team,” said Villarrial, who watched Jerome score on punt, kickoff returns and as a receiver on offense.

Out of the top 20 rated safeties for the draft this weekend, Pro Football Weekly ranks Jerome as the 14th-best at his position. Some of it probably has to do with his 18 career interceptions, and maybe it has to do with the fact that he had four more picks in two all-star games in January.

“I never heard of Saint Francis before. It’s out in the middle of nowhere but a great stop because this kid (Lorenzo Jerome) can play,” an NFL scout was quoted as saying in the magazine.

Jerome, who says he will watch the draft with friends and family at a pizza shop in Pittsburgh, downplayed what the prognosticators are saying about who will land the 5-foot-10, 202-pounder.

“Right now I am hearing fifth or sixth round from my agent (Joel Segal), but you never know … it’s the draft,” Jerome said. “I really don’t pay attention to the media. I focus on what I have to do, which is play football.”

Back in February, Mel Kiper Jr. told a national audience on ESPN Radio that Jerome could surprise and go in the third round. His 40 time at the NFL Combine was listed at 4.62 on his draft profile on nfl.com. Since then, most of the predictions have moved toward a fifth- or sixth-round pick.

“He is a game player, and he has shown that over the past four years here,” Villarrial said. “I would hate to say what round he could be drafted in, because I believe his mind-set is a lot like mine at draft time, and that he just wants a shot to show what he can do.”

Jerome sees himself as both a strong and free safety, as well as a special teams player. At the combine the teams that talked to him said they were open to all three possibilities.

“They want to try me back deep as a return man and see what I am capable of doing,” said Jerome, who was recruited as a quarterback out of J.P. Taravella High School in Sunrise, Fla. “The NFL Combine was a wonderful experience. I dreamt about performing on that stage for a long time. It was a complete shocker to me and it still is.”

There were 25 teams that inquired about Jerome at the combine, but he did not want to name any, though a report online from PennLive.com said the Pittsburgh Steelers were one of them.

“We knew he was a player, but he has developed into a game-changer. He has done this all himself, and it has been fun to watch,” Villarrial said. “I do believe he has the skill to make it at the next level.”