Drake London is overmatched. He’s not strong enough. He’s not fast enough. After he begs his dad to let him switch to tackle football before sixth grade, the hits land harder than the 10-year-old anticipated.
He dazzles as a flag football running back, envisioning himself as Reggie Bush, his favorite player. Yet in one particular game, he’s tossed around by bigger, stronger defenders. He feels like he can’t hold his own, and he hates that feeling. So London takes his problem to the only person who might know what to do.
London’s father, Dwan, is thrilled. He’s been convinced since Drake started in the third grade that his son could have a future in football. So he’s been training Drake ever since, presenting drills as games, prodding him with playful doubts, knowing full well his son’s competitive side would take over. “I don’t think you can do it,” Dwan would tell him, “but you can try it, I guess.” Now, Drake tells his father he’ll do anything to be stronger, to be faster, to be great, and Dwan is happy to oblige.
Drake will look back years later on that moment and understand it as a personal turning point, one of those crucial junctures that would send him hurtling on a course toward football stardom at USC, where his likely final season begins Saturday against San Jose State. Yet long before he emerged as one of the nation’s best receivers, a freakish, 6-foot-5 supernova with a physics-defying catch radius who single-handedly could influence the Pac-12 title race, the journey started with a pull-up bar.
He was too young to lift weights, Dwan decided, so they started simply. Just push-ups and the pull-up bar. Some days they headed to nearby Moorpark College to run the hills or around cones. Eventually, they brought a parachute or sled for Drake to pull as he ran.
“I’d get home from work, and he’d already be waiting in the front yard with two water bottles, cones, whatever we were working on that day,” Dwan says. “As a father, you don’t say no to that. So I would run in the house, change my clothes, and we were off.”
London’s rise from there isn’t so much meteoric as methodical, checking every box patiently along the way. Bit by bit, he gets stronger, faster. Dwan and his wife, Cindi, taught their kids never to skip steps or cut corners, so when Drake wants new football gear, he has to earn it with touchdowns. Later, when touchdowns prove too easy to come by, his parents pivot to rewarding his grades.
The work ethic never wanes; though a nine-inch growth spurt speeds up the process. By his sophomore year of high school, London isn’t just flashing potential in football. Basketball is his first love and it soon becomes clear he could have a future in either. As a senior, he scores 12 touchdowns as Moorpark’s star receiver and 29.2 points per game as the basketball team’s leading scorer. So he keeps working at both, packing most days with practices, tournaments or camps, leaving himself barely any time to breathe.
He excels, rarely complaining. While others tell him to choose, warning that he can’t commit to both, the doubts only fuel his decision. Just two schools offer him the opportunity to play basketball and football, Virginia and USC, and he chooses the Trojans, determined to balance his pursuit of both sports while keeping close to his family.
“The deal was we would pick his senior year what he was going to play in college,” Dwan says. “We got to his senior year, and he still couldn’t choose. Who am I to force him to pick? I don’t want to make him make the wrong decision. So if you have the opportunity to try both at the next level, try both.”
At the time, Dwan confesses, Drake was better at basketball. But his ceiling on the football field was too tantalizing to ignore, a fact that would become clear almost immediately at USC, where he stands out in fall camp as a freshman.
It takes until midway through the 2019 season for London to make his mark, but on a game-winning drive at Colorado, he reels in a critical 19-yard catch that keeps the drive moving, and from there, his trajectory skyrockets. He scores five touchdowns in his final five games of that season. His family starts to wonder if the NFL might be in the freshman’s future.
If it wasn’t obvious then where he was heading, fate intervenes soon after football season. He’s behind in basketball before an illness holds him out longer. He barely plays as a freshman wing, and he tells himself that if his sophomore campaign goes well in football, he’ll put basketball behind him.
His dad is convinced he could have a future in basketball, but London proceeds to emerge as one of the Pac-12’s top wideouts in a pandemic-altered season, earning a place on the all-conference team, as well as on the radar of NFL scouts. In December, he sits down with his parents, ready to make a decision.
“I didn’t have any momentum in basketball like I did in football,” London says. “I had a golden egg in my hand. If I dropped it, I may never be able to get it back.”
What he didn’t understand was how much time he’d have now focusing on one sport.
“Life slowed way down,” he said.
Suddenly, there was time for friends and family, time to watch TV, to play board games, to actually relax “and finally be a normal kid,” he explains.
There was much more time for football. He took part in spring practice for the first time. He dedicated himself to sessions with USC quarterback Kedon Slovis strengthening an already strong bond. Where before he could only dabble, London now threw himself headfirst into training, tightening his footwork, speeding up his breaks, sharpening his routes. The connection with Slovis feels almost telekinetic, their trust so strong that the quarterback says he can count on London to catch anything thrown his way.
“He’s made one of the biggest jumps I’ve ever seen,” says cornerback Chris Steele, who experienced his electric fall camp performance firsthand.
London doesn’t regret the decision to leave basketball behind. He’s at peace with his process. He didn’t need to cut corners to arrive at this latest juncture, with the weight of USC’s offense on his shoulders this season and a bright future as a likely first-round NFL draft pick awaiting next spring.
“When he goes after something and he puts his focus on solely that, things usually turn out special,” Dwan says.
USC HC Clay Helton compared sophomore WR Drake London to Buccaneers WR Mike Evans in a recent podcast with Pro Football Focus' Austin Goyle.
London (6'5/217) had a very good 2020 season for the Trojans, catching 33 passes for 502 yards and three touchdowns. And that was in an abbreviated campaign, thanks to COVID-19. Expectations are high for the sophomore wide receiver who, according to his head coach, has had a very good offseason to this point. "I mean just a dynamic frame," Helton said to Pro Football Focus. "6-foot-5 plus, 217 pounds. I mean he just runs, he's obviously not this guy yet but he's in the mold of a Mike Evans. He just does stuff and you’re like gosh, that’s a big man with little man skills. Every day he walks out there and I’m just amazed by the plays he makes. I expect huge things for him. He's had a really good offseason. He really had a sense of urgency to be great. It's not ‘oh I've had two good years. I'm going to get comfortable, I'm going to get stagnant.’ He really approached this offseason as ‘I’m going to be the best in the country. Help me get there.’"
Jun 14, 2021, 4:04 PM ET
SI.com thinks USC sophomore WRs Drake London and Bru McCoy are headed for breakout seasons in 2021.
London (6'5/210) had the third-best PFF receiving grade in the Pac-12 last season, with the top-two wideouts - Amon-Ra St. Brown and Simi Fehoko - having graduated to the NFL. The sure-handed wideout didn't drop a single pass last year and ranks second in the nation in drop rate behind the line of scrimmage since 2019. As if his sure-handedness wasn't enough, London also ranks eighth in the P5 in career broken tackles forced. For his part former five-star recruit McCoy had a crisp 130.1 passer rating when targeted in 2020 while catching all four of his contested targets. When called upon to take over the Z-spot in OC Graham Harrell's air-raid offense, McCoy looked better than starting WR Tyler Vaughns. The two sensational sophomores should thrive in the pass-heavy USC system this year.
Jul 17, 2021, 11:11 AM ET
USC sophomore WR Drake London caught 13 passes for 144 yards in a 30-7 victory over San Jose State this Saturday.
Despite having missed multiple practices in the last couple weeks of training camp, London (6'5/210) was in mid-season form against the Spartans, reeling in 13-of-15 passes and exerting his will upon the overmatched defensive backs SJSU was trotting out on the field. It was London's first game after transitioning from the slot to outside to occupy the X-WR spot in OC Graham Harrell's air-raid offense, and he looked more than up to the task. He should see a Michael Pittman-like level of volume and could put up huge numbers if Slovis can improve upon his middling 2020 performance. USC will enjoy the victory for the evening, then turn the page to Stanford on September 11.
Sep 4, 2021, 11:04 PM ET
USC sophomore WR Drake London (head) departed Saturday's game at Washington State during the third quarter.
London (6'5/210), who had been torching the Washington State secondary for much of the game, was knocked woozy during the third quarter. Whether or not the sophomore wide receiver will be cleared to return has yet to be determined, but he did not look good while walking off the field. We'll have an update once more information is made available.
SOURCE: Shotgun Spratling on Twitter
Sep 18, 2021, 6:21 PM ET
USC junior wide receiver Drake London caught 13 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns in Saturday’s 45-14 win over Washington State.
London (6'5/210) had his best game of the season Saturday, as he managed to find the end zone twice in an offense that looked completely different under freshman quarterback Jaxson Dart. Drake’s first touchdown on the day came from five yards out, as he secured a catch in the end zone despite being blanketed by defenders. For his second score, London hauled in a 31-yard touchdown late in the third quarter on a deep pass from Dart. London made several big plays in this one and will look to continue his strong start to the season next week against Oregon State.
SOURCE: Box Score
Sep 18, 2021, 7:17 PM ET
Crazy. I worked for years with his dad. I knew Drake was accepted to USC as a WR but living in Europe now and not following college ball I had no clue he was such a prospect. Awesome to see. Great family and deserving all of success.
USC junior WR Drake London registered 10 receptions for a game-high 165 yards in Saturday's 45-27 loss against Oregon State.
London (6'5/210) has gone for 137 or more receiving yards in three of his four outings to date, and he fell five yards short of his previous career best of 170 receiving yards set last week at Washington State. He has managed 10 or more catches in three of his four games to date, too. Next up is a trip to Colorado next Saturday.
Sep 26, 2021, 4:15 AM ET
USC junior WR Drake London caught nine passes for 130 yards and a touchdown in USC's 37-14 win over Colorado.
London (6'5/210) put on a receiving clinic in the first half, coming down with contested catch after contested catch for repeated huge gains. The coverage wasn't even poor, he just continually outjumped and outplayed his unfortunate CB opponents. USC's first touchdown drive was total domination by the junior, who had two jump ball catches for big gains, and then snagged a one handed back-shoulder fade to finish it off. London was kept much quieter in the second half with USC winning by a good margin, and Colorado started throwing multiple people at him. On Gary Bryant Jr's touchdown London was literally triple teamed which gave Bryant so much space. London showed off a multitude of impressive skills all day, and looked like the best contested catcher in the NCAA. He even displayed some open field playmaking, taking a screen for a medium gain by hurdling over a defender. Simply put, London showed he should be playing on Sundays. He'll look to continue his NFL tryout next week against Utah.
Oct 2, 2021, 6:09 PM ET
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Drake London has been the nation's most productive receiver in the first month of the college football season, which means the Southern California star is getting hit a whole lot more than the average wideout.
But there's nothing average about London, the 6-foot-5 former Trojans basketball player whose sole concentration on football this fall has propelled him to this monster start.
London isn't worried about all of those hits he's taking. In fact, he doesn't think he's the one who should be worried.
“Honestly, it isn't necessarily punishment to me,” London said. “I think it's punishment to them. I feel like when somebody tries to hit me, I want to make them feel me, and next time think about if they want to hit me or not. That's my whole mentality.”
London has a physical, winning mentality on a .500 team in turmoil. He has already racked up 39 catches for 540 yards - both tops in the Football Bowl Subdivision - while scoring three TDs for the Trojans (2-2, 1-2 Pac-12), who head to Colorado on Saturday for the next stop on their roller coaster ride of a season.
London has been a model of consistency and production amidst the chaos of USC's season. Whether catching passes from Kedon Slovis or Jaxson Dart, London is finding ways to get open and to keep the Trojans' offense moving despite inconsistency from almost every other position.
London's athleticism immediately stands out in every Trojans game. He avoids tacklers with a nimble spin move he's broken out at least a dozen times already this season, and he has a distinct advantage on jump balls that comes from a very obvious source.
When asked about his game plan for those 50-50 balls, London says: “Just dunk on 'em. That's pretty much it. Kedon puts the ball up in the air, and I'll try to dunk on 'em and use that basketball background to my advantage.”
Interim head coach Donte Williams was the Trojans' cornerbacks coach two weeks ago, so he has gone from instructing defenders on ways to stop London to relying heavily on the gifted pass-catcher to carry USC forward in this season of transition.
“He's a beast,” Williams said. “I've said that from Day One, before the season started. I said, ‘That's the Biletnikoff winner.' Nothing is shocking me that he's doing. I expect it.”
USC hasn't had a Biletnikoff Award winner since 2012, when Marqise Lee racked up 118 catches for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns with coach Lane Kiffin and quarterback Matt Barkley targeting him early and often.
London is getting similar attention from offensive coordinator Graham Harrell and Slovis this season, and he's capitalizing.
“I think he's always been super talented,” Slovis said. “He's probably a little bit better as time progresses, but I think people are just starting to notice more. Maybe not playing basketball has helped with that. I remember my freshman year, everybody was talking about (Michael Pittman Jr., Amon-Ra St. Brown and Tyler Vaughns), but we knew how special Drake was from the beginning.”
The Trojans used London as a slot receiver in his first two seasons in Harrell's schemes while USC's featured receivers were Pittman, who's having a solid second season for the Indianapolis Colts, and St. Brown, now a rookie for the Detroit Lions.
London is now on the outside, where he gets guidance and mentorship from receivers coach Keary Colbert, a star wideout two decades ago on some of Pete Carroll's best USC teams. Colbert and London both grew up in Los Angeles' far-flung northwest suburbs: Colbert in Oxnard and London about 30 miles away in Moorpark.
“We're going to try to finish it the right way,” Colbert said. “I think he's focused on doing whatever he can to help our team, and he's done a lot to help. We'll add it up at the end and see where it falls, but he's working hard every day.”
As to whether the Trojans are leaning on London too much to salvage their tumultuous season, London called it “a wide receiver's dream to be targeted like that.”
“I don't think it's ever a worry to rely on a great player too much,” Williams added. “Did the Lakers rely on the guys they had too much, or did the Bulls rely on Jordan too much? That's what you do if you want to win games.”
USC junior WR Drake London caught 16 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown in a 42-26 loss to Utah on Saturday.
London (6'5/210) continues to have a monster season and has to be considered the leader for the Biletnikoff Award. Through six games, London has 64 receptions for 832 yards and five touchdowns. He has been the lone bright spot on the Trojans so far this season and has been obliterating cornerbacks from every opponent. London and USC take on Notre Dame in two weeks on Saturday the 23rd.
Oct 10, 2021, 12:57 AM ET
USC junior WR Drake London was able to snag 15 catches for 171 yards in Saturday's 31-16 loss to Notre Dame.
London was mostly catching intermediate passes from Kedon Slovis outside of a 44-yard connection, but that's not an insult. It gives the 6-foot-5, 210-pound wideout 31 catches over his last two games, and he's gone over double-digits in receptions in five games already. Sensational. With the 171 yards, London is now over the thousand-yard mark, and he'll certainly add to that total next week against Arizona.
Oct 23, 2021, 10:49 PM ET
USC junior WR Drake London has cracked Mel Kiper's top-5 overall prospects on his latest 2022 NFL Big Board.
It shouldn't come as a complete surprise that London (6'5/210) is continuing to ascend amongst the rankings of draft experts. London is a favorite for this year's Biletnikoff Award, having posted 79 receptions for 1,003 yards and five touchdowns in seven games. London showed out in a big way in Week 8 against Notre Dame, hauling in 15 targets for a season high 171 yards on 18 targets. London is the third-highest graded receiver on PFF.com at 90.4.
Oct 27, 2021, 12:29 PM ET
USC junior WR Drake London is committed to playing in a potential bowl game this season.
Ever since Christian McCaffrey sat out of Stanford's bowl game after the 2015 season, it has become a popular decision for NFL Draft prospects. In doing so, it helps preserve their health as they prepare for a grueling pre-draft process. For London (6'5/210), it isn't a tough decision for him, as he plans on playing a potential bowl game for the Trojans. *I feel like that's just our role as upperclassmen to guide them and lead them for the benefit of the program." Impressive leadership from the young receiver who is second in the nation in both receptions and receiving yards. He will look to build off of that on Saturday against Arizona.
SOURCE: Adam Grosbard
Oct 26, 2021, 11:32 PM ET
USC junior WR Drake London (lower right leg) suffered a serious injury during the second quarter of Saturday's game against Arizona.
London (6'5/210), one of the top draft-eligible prospects in college football, was injured on a second quarter touchdown reception. He finished the contact with nine catches for 81 yards with two scores. The junior had his leg rolled up on by an Arizona defender, and team trainers applied an air cast before taking London off the field via cart. The question now is how severe is the injury, and how much time will London have to miss.
Oct 30, 2021, 8:28 PM ET
USC junior WR Drake London (ankle) will miss the remainder of the season.
Head coach Donte Williams has made it official that his star receiver suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Saturday's matchup against Arizona. London (6'5/210) was one of the best receivers in the FBS as he was second in catches (88) and third in receiving yards (1,084). With London being considered a high draft prospect, although not official, it looks like London has played his last snap as a Trojan.
SOURCE: Ryan Abraham
Oct 31, 2021, 10:06 PM ET
USC junior WR Drake London was named to Pro Football Focus' 2021 First Team All-Pac-12 team earlier this week.
London (6'5/210) suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 9 against Arizona. He finished the year with 88 receptions for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns, and has a PFF receiving grade of 91.8, which is tied for the third highest receiver grade on the site. Drake was named as the no. 8 overall prospect of the 2022 NFL Draft class according to ESPN draft expert Todd McShay, and the no. 2 receiver in the class behind Ohio State's Chris Olave.
Dec 1, 2021, 1:41 PM ET
USC junior WR Drake London is the highest-graded at the position according to Pro Football Focus.
London (6'5/210) suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 9 against Arizona. But he still finishes out the season as the best wide receiver in college football according to Pro Football Focus, earning an overall grade of 91.3. London could still be a first-round draft pick in 2022 despite the setbacks.
Dec 6, 2021, 6:27 PM ET
Yep. I have to say that I knew this was consensus. Unfortunately, one league I'm in that I'd call my prominent league is one where we don't get to deal guys two years out, so there are no 2023 picks to be had yet in trade. We get those after the NFL draft, I think. Right before ours, which takes place in May.This draft has a couple potential future stars at WR, including this guy. RB looks pretty average. 2023 is when you want the tailbacks.
ESPN NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay ranks USC WR Drake London as the top wide receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft class.
London (6'5/210) edges out Ohio State phenom Garrett Wilson on McShay's latest big board release, with London checking in as the ninth best player available while Wilson ranks 10th. Despite suffering a fractured right ankle in his eighth game of the season, London was so thoroughly dominant that he still accrued 88 catches for 1,084 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in that limited span. He occupied the X-WR role in former USC OC Graham Harrell's offense and was targeted even more often on a per game basis than current Indianapolis Colts starting wideout Michael Pittman. What makes London special is how he leveraged his huge frame to devastating effect against smaller defenders, much as you would expect from a converted high-level basketball player who boxes out smaller opponents. While his route running could use some polish, his physical gifts and production make London a first round lock.
Feb 9, 2022, 1:09 PM ET
He may be a little overrated. There are clear cases of his lack of separation at times in college, but his contested catch skills are very good to overcome that in college. I'm not convinced he can in the NFL. Not because they both played at USC, but he is comparable to Michael Pittman. That isn't a bad thing, because Pittman's YAC was a surprise, but I wouldn't rank London as the best WR in this class. He may be no better than 4th or 5th.ESPN NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay ranks USC WR Drake London as the top wide receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft class.
He may be a little overrated. There are clear cases of his lack of separation at times in college, but his contested catch skills are very good to overcome that in college. I'm not convinced he can in the NFL. Not because they both played at USC, but he is comparable to Michael Pittman. That isn't a bad thing, because Pittman's YAC was a surprise, but I wouldn't rank London as the best WR in this class. He may be no better than 4th or 5th.
Did you happen to see that clip of Matt Waldman taking about Burks? It was around the 34:56 mark. I found that most interesting.Some of the love might be due to size/wingspan. At 6'5" I believe he's the biggest of all the top WR prospects. And his production prior to the injury was off the charts ridiculous. He had 88/1084/8 in 8 games.
I still have Burks as my WR1 of the 2022 draft, and maybe Garrett Wilson as my WR2, but Drake is close behind. I could see the Eagles or Raiders both being able to use him, but the Raiders need a speed guy more, and that's not really Drake.
... Not turning 21 until July, London's age is another feature for the team that drafts him. He may not even be done growing into his frame.Scouting Report: Drake London, WR USC
Just a baby!... Not turning 21 until July, London's age is another feature for the team that drafts him. He may not even be done growing into his frame.
Ages of the top 5 WRs from the 2022 draft class:
Treylon Burks AGE 21.89 years old
Chris Olave AGE 21.63 years old
Garrett Wilson AGE 21.56 years old
Jameson Williams AGE 20 years old BIRTHDAY March 26, 2001
Drake London AGE 20.55 years old ... Not turning 21 until July
Unfortunately we probably won't get a 40 time for him because of his injury but I'm pretty sure London is significantly faster than BMW was.It's completely unfair but whenever I see a kid this big from USC, who dominates by out fighting DBs for the ball I think of Big
who was, maybe the most dominant college WR I ever saw play but too slow for the NFL.
Another unfair comparison of a 6'5 225lb WR that pops into my mind.Chaka said:It's completely unfair but whenever I see a kid this big from USC, who dominates by out fighting DBs for the ball I think of Big Mike Williams who was, maybe the most dominant college WR I ever saw play but too slow for the NFL.
Mel Kiper compares USC WR Drake London to Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Mike Evans.
At most of the positions going into the draft, there isn't a clear consensus No. 1 player, that's why many draft experts have players going in all sorts of positions. This goes with the wide receiver position as USC's Drake London, Ohio State's Garett Wilson, and Arkansas Trelyon Burks are all in contention to be taken first in the draft. To justify each player, experts are going to compare them to NFL stars and London is no exception. Despite London ending his 2021 with an ankle injury, he's high on people's draft boards, including ESPN's Mel Kiper who is comparing the former USC wideout to Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mike Evans. Kiper acknowledges their similar size (both listed at 6'5") helps their dominance as they are a mismatch to most corners, he says it helps both of them get open and make those contested catches in traffic. Mike Evans has shown to be a nightmare to cover, especially in fade route to the corner of the endzone, with the right quarterback, you easily see London rack up the touchdowns in his rookie campaign in 2022
Feb 19, 2022, 2:38 PM ET