Las Vegas Sun

November 16, 2018

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Local impact: The pipeline from the Vegas Valley to the NFL is growing

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Steven Senne / Assocaited Press

In this Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, photo, New England Patriots defensive end Lawrence Guy displays cleats that honor victims of the Oct. 1 Las Vegas shooting, left, and families who have lost an infant, right, in the team’s locker room in Foxborough, Mass. Guy will honor both causes on the field this weekend during the NFL’s My Cause, My Cleats initiative.

As if local football fans didn’t have enough to root for this season with the Raiders’ impending move, the Valley has also become a fertile breeding ground for NFL players during the past decade.

It’s difficult to track the exact number of professionals from Las Vegas, but Pro Football Reference’s Player Finder indicates the 2018 season could set an all-time high. As many as 20 players from Southern Nevada were included on training camp rosters, fighting to make their respective teams’ final 53-man rosters.

Here are eight hometown heroes who are worth watching and could have a significant impact during the upcoming season.

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Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley poses for photos with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected by Baltimore Ravens as the sixth pick in the first round of the 2016 NFL football draft, Thursday, April 28, 2016, in Chicago.

• Ronnie Stanley, Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle: Even the most high-profile rookies are sometimes eased into the NFL. There was none of that last season with Stanley, whom the Ravens selected with the sixth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. The former Bishop Gorman and Notre Dame All-American started all but one game, which he missed because of injury at one of the most important positions on the field—left tackle. Stanley could make his first Pro Bowl this season.

• Brandon Marshall, Denver Broncos linebacker: During the past five years, the Broncos have fielded the most consistently dominant defense in football. Marshall has been one of the top contributors. The Cimarron-Memorial graduate has found a home in Denver after initially going to Jacksonville in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Marshall, who won a Super Bowl with the Broncos in 2015, led the team in tackles for the second time last year.

• LeShaun Sims, Tennessee Titans cornerback: Sims flew under the radar in high school while playing in the small-classification league with Agassi Prep, but has shot upwards since the Titans took him in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. He’s a valuable member of the improving Titans’ pass defense, logging five starts last year before tearing his hamstring at the end of the season to miss the playoffs.

• Tyrell Crosby, Detroit Lions offensive tackle: Detroit made it an offseason priority to retool its offensive line, and the rookie Green Valley High graduate will be among the new players tasked with leading the turnaround. He’s expected to be the primary reserve at both tackle spots, but could emerge as a starter if he’s as successful as he was collegiately at Oregon. Crosby missed his junior season with the Ducks after breaking his foot — injury concerns may have been part of the reason he slipped to the fifth round of this year’s draft — but didn’t allow a single sack as a senior.

• Miles Killebrew, Detroit Lions safety/linebacker: Killebrew was a late bloomer, breaking out as a senior at Foothill High and earning a single scholarship offer from Southern Utah, where he starred in the Football Championship Subdivision level of college football. Now he just keeps getting better. Killebrew has seen action in all 32 Lions games over the past two seasons and should continue to see consistent work as he transitions to linebacker under new coach Matt Patricia this season.

Former New York Giants player Justin Tuck, left, makes his team's selection as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, right, applauds during the second round of the NFL football draft Friday, April 27, 2018, in Arlington, Texas. The Giants selected UTEP's Will Hernandez.

Former New York Giants player Justin Tuck, left, makes his team's selection as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, right, applauds during the second round of the NFL football draft Friday, April 27, 2018, in Arlington, Texas. The Giants selected UTEP's Will Hernandez.

• Will Hernandez, New York Giants guard: In an effort to rebuild their offensive line, the Giants used the 34th overall pick on the Chaparral High graduate in April’s NFL Draft. The 6-foot-2, 335-pound Hernandez was the second guard off of the board—not bad for a childhood soccer player who didn’t try out for football until high school and wound up at the University of Texas-El Paso after sparse recruiting interest.

• Lawrence Guy, New England Patriots defensive tackle: The eighth-year NFL veteran had a career year in his first season under legendary coach Bill Belichick, implanting himself as a starter for the Patriots and coming within minutes of winning a Super Bowl ring. Guy had six tackles in the Super Bowl loss to the Eagles, bringing his season total to 72 and looking well worth the four-year, $20 million contract he signed before the season. Guy had a legendary high school career at Western High from 2003 to 2007.

• Xavier Grimble, Pittsburgh Steelers tight end: New Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner plans to heavily feature tight ends in his schemes this season, so it’s safe to say Grimble will have an opportunity to make an impact when he returns from a wrist injury. He’s aiming to be back for Week 1. Grimble has 16 catches for 150 yards and three touchdowns in two years with the Steelers, following decorated stints at Bishop Gorman and USC.