Appalachian State free safety Mark LeGree has won so many awards over his career with the Mountaineers that perhaps earning this week's Diamond in the Rough as the top "small school" NFL prospect won't even register as an award.
The recognition certainly pales in comparison to being a finalist for the Buck Buchanan award twice. Or, for earning consensus All-American accolades twice. Or, for being the only FCS representative on the official watch list for the Bronko Nagurski trophy.
It isn't difficult to understand why LeGree has earned such acknowledgement. After backing up three-time All-American Corey Lynch (now a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after being a 6th round pick by the Bengals in 2008), LeGree has started every game of his career, racking up an eye-popping 17 interceptions in his first two seasons as the Mountaineers' starting free safety.
I focused on LeGree in Saturday's 37-14 win over Western Carolina. Not surprisingly, LeGree came through with yet another interception, his fifth of the season and 22nd of his career. LeGree also notched eight tackles.
As is often the case with dominant FCS players, LeGree doesn't necessarily look the part of a future NFL standout. LeGree, who is listed at 6-0, 200 pounds, looks smaller on film and more like a cornerback than the lanky, big hitting free safety most NFL scouts are looking for.
That said, LeGree proved willing and able to mix it up near the line of scrimmage and the body control to break down in space and make the secure open field tackle. Scouts will be interested to learn his actual time in the 40-yard dash, but he's such an instinctive player, LeGree consistently made the play despite appearing to be out of position, at times.
LeGree's second quarter interception was an example of this. Western Carolina quarterback Zac Brindise attempted a long bomb down the left sideline from approximately the 50-yard line. He failed to look off LeGree, who easily drifted to his right to make the interception at his own 5.
I can't imagine that LeGree has had many interceptions over his career any easier than this one. However, when you have 22 (and counting) to choose from, perhaps he does.
Expect to hear LeGree's name as the season ends. He'll almost certainly be again recognized as an All-American and Buck Buchanan finalist. A savvy all-star game personnel director or two will most likely pick up on his accolades and legitimate NFL potential to invite him into compete at the East-West Shrine Game or Senior Bowl. And, of course, you'll hear his name again... when he's drafted.