Alijah Vera-Tucker Selected by New York Jets in First Round of 2021 NFL Draft

Alijah Vera-Tucker is officially headed to the National Football League

The 21-year-old part-Latino offensive lineman is the No. 14 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Alijah Vera-Tucker

Vera-Tucker was selected by the New York Jets in the First Round, the first Latino football player picked this year.

Vera-Tucker played tackle and guard at the University of Southern California (USC) for two seasons and was one of the best offensive linemen in the country.

He won the Morris Trophy in 2020 for being the nation’s best offensive lineman. Tucker was also a First-Team All-Pac 12 selection in 2020 and Second-Team All-Pac 12 in 2019.

Tucker secures the left side of the Jets’ offensive line, with Mekhi Becton anchoring down the left tackle position. This pick gives Zach Wilson, the Jets’ top pick, some much-needed protection.

 

Aguayo Drafted in the Second Round of the NFL Draft

Roberto Aguayo is headed to the National Football League

The 21-year-old Latino kicker, who played for Florida State, was picked in the second round of the NFL draft.

Roberto Aguayo

Aguayo, the 59th pick overall, was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, becoming the highest-drafted kicker since Mike Nugent in 2005.

The NFL’s lengthened extra point has put new emphasis on the play, now effectively a 33-yard attempt. Aguayo was perfect on his 198 PATs in college. More pertinent, the 2013 Lou Groza Award winner was 69-for-78 (88.5%) on field-goal tries and didn’t miss on any of his 49 attempts inside 40 yards.

Aguayo, quarterback Jameis Winston‘s teammate at FSU, expressed a desire to play for the Bucs and seems likely to hold the job for years to come.

But Aguayo wasn’t the only Latino footballer picked during this year’s NFL draft…

Blake Martinez is headed to the Green Bay Packers

The Packers selected the Latino inside from Stanford with the 131st pick, which arrived late in the fourth round, and contained a bit of a premonition from his mother, Carrisa Martinez.

“The funny part of it was, (my mom) was always telling me throughout the process, she was like, ‘I believe you’re going to end up at the Packers,'” Martinez said on a conference call. “And obviously it was just a lucky guess type of thing, but it’s just funny. My mom said right after, ‘Moms are always right.’ And I’ll take it.”

When his moment arrived, Martinez donned a green Packers hat and matching gray T-shirt, and immediately posted a family photo on social media. His father, Marc, had bought the gear in a pre-draft shopping spree that accumulated gear from all 32 teams — just in case.

Martinez, who stands 6 feet 1 1/2 inches and weighs 240 pounds, earned All-American honors in 2015 and was also named first-team all-Pac-12.

He recorded a team-high 141 tackles last season, and his 10.1 tackles per game led the conference.

The Packers, according to director of football operations Eliot Wolf, were enamored of Martinez’s all-around game. He flashed the ability to blitz, evidenced by 13 1/2 tackles for loss and 6 1/2 sacks over the last two years. He expressed confidence in his ability to cover, and Martinez said he served as the main coverage linebacker in nickel and dime packages last season. His 40-yard dash time of 4.67 seconds is far from blazing, but Wolf said the Packers have no qualms about his mobility or range.

“I felt like this last year I improved tremendously on that,” Martinez said. “I feel 100% confident to go out there and cover whoever I need to cover.”

Oklahoma’s Zack Sanchez was picked in Round 5 by the Carolina Panthers.

The 21-year-old Latino cornerback, picked 141st overall, is a ball-hawk who intercepted 13 passes over the past two seasons. His seven picks in 2015 tied for fifth nationally. Sanchez was not afraid to gamble, and sometimes paid for his mistakes. During his career at Oklahoma, he also recorded 134 tackles and three touchdowns.

“He’s instinctive. I think when you get into the fourth or fifth rounds, and find a cornerback with some instincts, this is a great pick,” said NFL Network’s Mike Mayock.

Thomas Duarte is switching coasts…

The 21-year-old half-Mexican American receiver, who played for UCLA, was picked in the seventh round by the Miami Dolphins.

The 231st pick overall, the 6-foot-2, 231-pound Duarte was drafted as a tight end.

Duarte turned pro with a season of eligibility remaining. He ranked second on the Bruins last season with 53 receptions for 872 yards and a team-best 10 touchdown receptions.