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Ladd goes L.A.: North Murray grad McConkey selected by NFL's Chargers

Apr. 26—Ladd McConkey is a Los Angeles Charger.

The Chatsworth native, North Murray High School graduate and Georgia Bulldog wide receiver was selected with the 34th overall pick by the the Chargers Friday night in the second round of the 2024 NFL Draft. The Chargers traded up to the 34th position — the second pick in the second round — with the New England Patriots, who held the position originally, to take McConkey.

"That is just a little bit of extra motivation," McConkey told reporters after the Chargers traded up to draft him. "They want me, they came up and got me, so I'm going to give everything that I have to them and make sure that it is worth it."

McConkey will join a Los Angeles team that has a young star quarterback in Justin Herbert and was looking for some weapons for Herbert to throw to.

McConkey took in the draft from his family's home in Chatsworth. After the pick was made, ESPN showed McConkey celebrating with his family and donning a Chargers hat.

After Whitfield and Murray counties went 40 years without an NFL draft pick, Dalton graduate Jahmyr Gibbs became a first round pick of the Detroit Lions in the 2023 NFL Draft. Now, with McConkey being taken, the two-county area can claim NFL Draft picks in back-to-back years. McConkey is the first player from a high school in Murray County to be drafted into the NFL.

McConkey was the ninth wide receiver taken in the draft. Ohio State's Marvin Harrison Jr. was the first, going to the Cardinals fourth overall. Some pre-draft projections had McConkey going off the board in Thursday's first round, but McConkey slips to the top of the second round. McConkey was fourth in a string of four straight wide receiver selections to end the first round and start the second. Florida State wide receiver Keon Coleman was selected with the first pick in Friday's second round.

McConkey was the second former Bulldog pass catcher to be selected. Teammate Brock Bowers, a tight end, went to the Las Vegas Raiders with the 13th overall pick.

"I've been waiting, I feel like it's been so long, just trying to figure out where I'm going to be at," McConkey said. "Now that it's here, it's time to get to work."

The Chargers, which finished 5-12 last year, earn the exclusive right to sign McConkey to an NFL contract. The Chargers were in the market for a wide receiver after their top two pass catchers from last year left in free agency. Mike Williams signed with the New York Jets, and Keenan Allen went to the Chicago Bears.

"After he gets the ball in his hands, he's off to the races. He's tough as nails. He's a phenomenal kid with character through the roof," ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said on the broadcast after McConkey's selection. "He will be Justin Herbert's best friend."

Los Angeles hired Jim Harbaugh, the former Michigan head coach, to be their new head coach.

McConkey will play his NFL home games at So-Fi Stadium in Inglewood, California, the site of Georgia's 2022-23 national championship win, when the Bulldogs beat TCU 65-7. McConkey caught two touchdown passes in that game.

Former Alabama head coach Nick Saban, who coached against McConkey three times while the wide receiver was at Georgia, also praised the Chargers' pick on ESPN's telecast.

"I really like this player," Saban said. "Some people question his size and his durability because he's had some injury problems, but the quickness, the burst, the acceleration. When you can beat someone out of the break, you beat them out of the break and you can accelerate out of a break like he can, he's going to create his own space and be a great slot guy."

McConkey starred at North Murray, earned a scholarship to Georgia and helped the Bulldogs to a pair of national titles on his way to becoming an NFL Draft Pick.

As a senior in the 2019 season, McConkey was the North Murray quarterback and helped lead the team to its first region championship and first appearance in the state Elite Eight. North Murray finished 11-2 that year.

On the year in 2019, McConkey had 143 carries for 924 yards and 10 touchdowns; 124-for-209 passing for 1,771 yards and 20 touchdowns; three kickoff returns for 160 yards and one touchdown; four punt returns for 196 yards and two touchdowns; punted 22 times for an average of 35.2 yards; 17 tackles; four interceptions with three returned for touchdowns; and seven pass deflections. He was the Region 6-3A offensive player of the year and Region 6-3A first-team member and made the Dalton Daily Citizen All-Area first team as an athlete. McConkey previously played at his future collegiate position of wide receiver before taking over at QB for his senior season.

McConkey redshirted his first season in Athens and was a part of Georgia's scout team. In 2021, as a redshirt freshman, McConkey totaled 31 catches for 447 yards and five touchdowns, then brought in 58 balls for 762 yards and seven scores as a sophomore. Georgia won the National Championship after the 2021 and 2022 seasons.

Injuries led to McConkey being limited to just eight of Georgia's 14 games in 2023. McConkey still totaled 29 catches for 456 yards and a pair of touchdowns. McConkey won the 2023 Wuerffel Trophy, which highlights on-field success and community service.

McConkey's rise to become an NFL Draft pick was boosted by a strong performance at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in March.

McConkey registered a time of 4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash, which tied him for sixth-fastest among 30 competing receivers. Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy ran his 40-yard dash in a combine record-setting 4.21 seconds. No other receiver was faster than 4.33, and McConkey tied at 4.39 with Michigan wideout Roman Wilson, Oregon State's Anthony Gould and South Carolina's Xavier Legette.

McConkey also finished tied for fourth among wide receivers in 10-yard split with a time of 1.52 seconds. McConkey recorded a vertical jump of 36 inches, a broad jump of 10 feet and four inches and 13 repetitions in a bench press of 225 pounds.

"He has the footwork and body control to snap off crisp breaks and open windows for his quarterback," NFL Network analyst Lance Zierlein wrote of McConkey after the combine. "He can manipulate coverage with an advanced feel for leverage and has enough top-end speed to get past cornerbacks who are non-believers."