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Lebanon's Logue bound for Atlanta Falcons

May 1—Zion Logue has never been a stat-sheet stuffer.

But while his game-production statistics have never been impressive — in high school or college — major-college coaches and more recently NFL scouts have always seen what they needed in the 2019 Lebanon High graduate in his size measurements, athleticism and whatever else they see on video.

It earned the former Blue Devil lineman a scholarship to Georgia where he was part of two national championship teams.

And now it's earned him a spot in the National Football League as the Atlanta Falcons made the 6-foot-5, 314-pounder their sixth-round selection (No. 197 overall) in last Saturday's third-day of the NFL draft. He learned of his selection in a phone call from the Falcons moments before it was released to the public by ESPN.

"It was an overwhelming feeling," Logue said Monday. "I'd been waiting on that call for three days, finally seeing it. Finally seeing my dream come true.

"I'd heard anywhere from third round to sixth round. I felt like it was going to be Atlanta. I didn't know if it was going to be early or late like it was."

Logue started 16 of 50 games over five seasons with the Bulldogs, tallying 52 total tackles, including 28 solo stops and 4.5 behind the line of scrimmage. That includes 1.5 sacks. He also deflected three passes and a forced fumble which he recovered. He started 10 games last fall and posted a career-high 17 tackles as he contributed to a defense that ranked fifth nationally in scoring allowed at 15.6 points per game.

Those aren't imposing stats. But coaches and scouts look at other things. He also brings intangibles to the table.

"I believe it's my willingness to learn, my adaptability, just never giving up, never quitting," said Logue, a nosetackle whose key statline may be how many blockers he ties up to free up his teammates to make plays. "When you look at the stat sheet, you don't see the 10-sack seasons, the 13 TFLs. But look at the tape you see a very physical guy who's set on the line of scrimmage who's helping the defense win.

"If I don't have two guys on me then I should definitely be making every play. But if there's two guys on me, then somebody else is free."

Lebanon coach Chuck Gentry saw something in Logue practically from the moment he was hired in December 2016.

"First of all, he is an outstanding young man with impeccable character," Gentry said Monday.

"You don't find many kids like Zion Logue that comes through Lebanon High School that most of the time is all about business. I said this to (Georgia coach) Kirby Smart while I was sitting in his office talking about him being eligible. He's going to be eligible because he could have run for mayor when he was here because everybody loved him. All the teachers loved him...coaches loved him. Other coaches who interacted with him loved him. He just has that kind of character and that kind of personality. He volunteered for Special Olympics...you can see he has a big pure heart.

"And there weren't many kids walking around here that were 6-5, 240."

Gentry said Logue was good for high school basketball at his size. But in college, everyone is 6-6.

"I explained to him there were not many people that were 6-6, agile, who could bend and explosive like him," said Gentry, who took him to camps and clinics to see how elite players trained. "Showed him what people were doing outside the everyday what everybody does. You go to class, you lift weights, then you go home. But there's more to it. There's the gray part of it, the eating part of it, the sleeping part of it, having it all together that we all talk about it. Zion had the frame to put on a lot of weight and he did a good job. By his senior year, he was 287, 290 and drawing a lot of SEC attention."

Gentry has been around football practically his entire life. The Smith County native played collegiately at Cumberland. He's never been around future pro players to a great degree. So what does an NFL player look like when he's in high school? His late college coach had the answer.

"Herschel Moore told me when you see somebody who has NFL talent, you'll know it," Gentry said. "I've been around football all my life, and I'm not a D-line guy, but I can tell you what all the coaches want to know. Can he bend? Can he come out of his hips?"

Gentry said he has a picture of him and Smart watching Logue hit a bag three times.

"He told Zion, 'You are raw, but you have God-given genetics and God-given ability, and it's my job to get it out of you'. And he told him 'I'm either going to run you back to Lebanon because you can't handle the pressure and the work or you are going to make me look good and I'm going to make you rich'."

Gentry then talked about a trip he and Logue made to San Antonio during his senior year for an all-star game. With lots of time to talk, Logue made clear his goal was to play in the NFL.

"I told him, 'You're my shot. I dreamed about it as a little boy, too, but I didn't have those genetics. Everybody on our coaching staff is living through you'. Justin Harrell, when he helped us coach before he moved back to Martin, Tenn., said 'Coach, he's got IT'. All the coaches that came through, 'Coach, he's got IT'. There's a reason he had 30-something offers, almost every SEC school, almost every power-5 school. When they called and I said 'He won't go that far, he won't go that far', so a lot of the west coast people didn't mess with him. One of them, the University of Oregon, they said 'Yeah, we'll official-visit him, we'll fly him out because he can play'. A lot of people who've been doing that a whole lot longer than I have and are making a lot more money saw a lot of things in him. Genetics you can't teach. Explosion you can't teach. Violent hands. You can work on it. There's a knack to it. He has worked very hard to craft that skill and is good at it."

The hips are key.

"To be big, you have to bend," Gentry said. "There's big people, but they can't move. He is a large human that can move in small spaces. They don't care about his 40-yard dash. They may care about his 10-yard sprint. They care about his broad jump because can he use those hips to jump. They care about his vertical because can he use those hips to explode. They're not going to ask him to run 40 yards. If he's having to run 40 yards, the Atlanta Falcons are in trouble."

As for stats, Gentry said the No. 1 statistic was playing time.

"The coach keeps rolling him back out there," Gentry said. "For three years — on possibly the No. 1-rated defense in the nation, some historical defenses — Georgia kept rolling him back out there. There were all kinds of pieces around him. His job was to push the pocket backward to take double teams and let those other guys run and eat on first and second down. On short yardage that's what he did. On third down, they took him off for a 270-pound, 260-pound guy who could run and move. That's all situational football. Kirby Smart did not care how many stats he had. He had a job to do and he did that job well. The NFL has changed. It's become a pass-happy league. But you still have to run the ball and you still have to stop the run. He's very good. He's heavy-handed. He can play two-gap. He can take on double teams and not get moved, stand his ground. He can push the pocket back."

Logue is the first Blue Devil to be drafted since Louis Thompson was picked out of Alabama (also after winning two national titles) by the New York Giants in 1967.

Ironically, his newest team was the inspiration for his first squad, the Lebanon Junior Pro Falcons, where he began his journey to fulfill a dream.

"The Lord works in mysterious ways," Logue said. "It's very surreal."

Logue earned a degree at Georgia in December and, with the exception of football commitments, has been in Lebanon since. He's often been seen here during breaks throughout his college career, proving the bond to his hometown has not been broken.

"Lebanon is all I've ever known," Logue said. "I was born and raised here. All of my family is still living here. This community has given me everything I could have ever possibly wanted as a young kid, trying to grow up and chase my dreams. I don't want to let it go and let it die.

"I wear my hometown with pride. I definitely try to give kids something to look up to and look forward to. That's the biggest thing that helps me, just keep going, keep achieving, keep striving to make sure all my dreams come true."

Logue said he was planning to speak with the Falcons later Monday to set up the logistics about reporting to the team.

When he does, Gentry said he'll make the team. The coach has heard naysayers from the start tell him Logue wouldn't play past high school, was wasting his time in the SEC and now won't make it to the Sunday league.

"I expect him to make the roster and be a couple-of-year vet in the NFL," Gentry said.

And whether his dream ends in September or 10 years from now, Logue has his communications degree.

"He has been rolled out for two years by Kirby Smart to be the spokesperson of the Georgia defensive line and the defense," Gentry said. "You can find more clips of him talking at the University of Georgia. You have to work for him playing because he was a situational player. Spring practice for the last two years, he's been the first person rolled out to talk for the Georgia defense. He is well prepared for life after football."