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The Bizarre Path of the NFL Draft’s Most Unlikely Sleeper

Growing up in North Dakota and initially uninterested in playing college football, Jamalcolm Liggins is getting attention from NFL teams—one gave him a playbook to study—and could solidify himself as a draft sleeper at his pro day next week.

How’s this for a whirlwind decade: When Jamalcolm Liggins was 11, his mom moved the family from Memphis, Tennessee to Bismarck, North Dakota for a chance at a safer childhood.

A few years later, she relocated to Colorado but Liggins and three of his siblings wanted to stay in North Dakota. He became a foster child of a family friend and developed knack for track and field and football. He got good enough to warrant interest college programs, but Liggins wasn't interested in playing college football, instead looking into a military career. That summer he had a change of heart. Rather than reaching out to big-time programs he called the coach at NAIA Dickinson State, in Dickinson, North Dakota, one of the only schools that haddn’t harassed him for initially not wanting to play college football. He ended up becoming the school’s best defensive player. Now, the cornerback is a hidden NFL draft gem in the process of being unearthed.

From a training facility in Mesquite, Texas, where he’s currently working out, he’s already talked to more than a dozen NFL teams, including the Jaguars, Broncos, Chiefs, Eagles, Bills, Saints, Ravens, Cardinals, Buccaneers and Browns, despite not attending a single all star or bowl game. The 6' 2", 205-pound Liggins was receiving some heavy interest from one NFC West team, so much so that the team sent him their playbook so he could get acclimated to it.

An agent found him through highlight film posted on Twitter.

“It’s kind of unreal, you know?” Liggins said. “It’s a surreal feeling to know I have this opportunity.” 


While pro day season is typically headlined by the top collegiate prospects, most of the work on them is already completed. Throwing against air or running a few sprints isn’t going to change that. The desirable unknown, beyond information on the class of 2020, is for players like Liggins, who can latch on to a larger school’s pro day and end up giving scouts some cram-session homework before the draft. Thanks to Carson Wentz, North Dakota State’s pro day has become appointment viewing in recent years for NFL teams. Liggins hopes it’s a chance to steal the show.

“I’d take any route I can to get where I want to be,” Liggins said. “I’m excited for it. I’m prepared, it’s a big day and I’m expecting great things.”

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A spin through his highlights starts with an Odell Beckham-type one-handed interception and includes a four-interception performance in the NAIA playoffs against Northwestern College. Recent test numbers put him competitively in line with this year’s cornerback class at the combine, though his pro day results could ultimately dictate his trajectory from here.


Liggins said the Blue Hawks played a base 4-3 defense, and he was typically matched up on the opponent’s best wideout. He prefers a zone scheme because it allows him to take command of the game, though has played his fair share of man. He has heard more than a few times that his large frame and wingspan would make him the ideal Seattle Seahawk, especially since general manger John Schneider prides himself on finding defensive backs out of the blue.  

“A few people have told me that,” Liggins said, laughing.

Plugging into an NFL secondary one day would undoubtedly bring this crazy journey full circle.

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THE WEEK IN PRO DAYS: West Coast powerhouse USC and Ohio State both held their pro days on Wednesday, making it one of the busier days on the NFL calendar. A fun moment in Southern Cal when Jake Olson, the team’s long snapper, did the bench press workout to raise money for his “Reps for Retinoblastoma” fundraiser. Olson, who is blind, lost his eyesight to the disease more than a decade ago. You can donate here…. Dwayne Haskins threw at Ohio State’s pro day Wednesday. Giants head coach Pat Shurmur and offensive coordinator Mike Shula were front and center. Haskins had dinner with Shurmur and Giants brass on Tuesday night. Over at Notre Dame’s pro day in South Bend, Ind., punter Tyler Newsome put up 30 reps on the bench press, which, if you check the filter on’s combine results, would be better than all but two of the tight ends, EDGE defenders, cornerbacks, specialists or linebackers…. Bill Belichick has been known to have favorite pools from which to draft players (Florida and Rutgers come to mind through the years). In 2018 he used two first-round picks on Georgia players—Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel—so it wasn’t surprising to see him front and center at the Bulldogs’ workouts on Wednesday. Their combine invitees: CB Deandre Baker, WR Riley Ridley, OLB D’Andre Walker, DL Jonathan Ledbetter, WR Mecole Hardman, TE Isaac Nauta, WR Terry Godwin, RB Elijah Holyfield, OL Lamont Gaillard…. Speaking of the Patriots, legendary offensive line guru Dante Scarnecchia took in the sights at Boston College’s pro day Wendesday.

MISC: The Pro Day slate for Thursday: Azusa Pacific, 11:30 a.m….California, 1 p.m….Gannon, 4 p.m….Grand Valley State, 8 a.m….Louisville, 9 a.m….Massachusetts, 10 a.m…McNeese State, 9:30 a.m….Missouri, 9 a.m….Murray State, 10 a.m…..Sam Houston State, 10:15 a.m….South Carolina, 8 a.m.….Tulane, 1 p.m….. West Virginia, 8 a.m…..Western Michigan, 1 p.m.

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