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NFL Notebook: Matt Peart to be Governor’s Academy own ‘Blind Side’ NFL draft story

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Matt Peart with his mother during senior day (Getty Images)

The Blind Side book and, later, the movie starring Sandra Bullock was a tremendous rags-to-riches story of Michael Oher, who went from homeless to first-round pick as a late-comer to football.

Matt Peart's saga isn't quite as dramatic off the field — the whole family puts an emphasis on education with his mother being a school teacher — but his quick ascension from football neophyte to NFL prospect is pretty close.

Eight years ago, Peart had yet to play football after entering The Governor's Academy in Byfield on the North Shore as a top basketball prospect. Come Friday or Saturday, he'll be an NFL draft pick at offensive tackle.

"Matt's one of the best who has ever come through Governor's," said coach Jim O'Leary, the former Salem High and Northeastern University quarterback. "He arrived from the Bronx and when he got here, he saw himself as a basketball player. He was probably 6-2 at the time with a slender build and as he matured, he continued to grow and grow. His sophomore year, I was coaching basketball as well but I told him, 'You should really come out and play some football. A guy like you, how big you are and how athletic you are, you could earn a scholarship to play college football and you never know where that could bring you.' After a few conversations and he decided to play."

The rest has been a movie script.

Peart, who also dabbled in lacrosse (tell Bill Belichick) and took part in track & field for the Govs, played mostly at defensive end his first two seasons before becoming a starting offensive tackle as a senior.

"When we got him, the two positions we narrowed down were offensive tackle and defensive end, and he played both of those for us," O'Leary said. "With his size and his length and footwork, I felt offensive tackle would be a perfect position for him college.

"It was slow at first because he was new to the game, he had never played. And then once he caught on, he was just a natural at what he did."

Peart, who was born in Jamaica but raised in the Bronx where was part of an academy program to place high-achieving students into private schools, was lightly recruited by SUNY-Albany and New Hampshire until then-UConn offensive line coach Mike Foley (now at UMass) arrived at Governor's to recruit a few other players.

"We had two or three kids that were Division I prospects and then I brought Matt in," O'Leary said. "(Foley's) eyes lit up and he said, 'This is the guy we have to pursue.' That's when UConn really went after him."

After redshirting his first season, Peart started every game his final four seasons with Huskies, split between the right and left side. He was first-team all-conference and a team captain as a senior, and was selected for the Senior Bowl.

Most draft experts have Peart about the top 12 offensive tackles in this draft and he's expected to go from the second to fifth round. Peart looks the part of a franchise left tackle with a frame that is nearly 6-7 with absurdly long arms (35 5/8th), huge hands, basketball player feet and room to grow at just 318 pounds. He just needs to be coached up due to his lack of experience in the game, but the upside is almost limitless.

Peart will be the first NFL player from Governor's since former Boston College linebacker Robert Francois was an undrafted free agent of the Vikings in 2009. He won a Super Bowl with the Packers in 2010.

"I think he's a gem," O'Leary said. "He's going to do what he's told, he's a better person than he is with anything that has to do with athletics. Matt is a first-class kid, he was a leader here, he was a proctor in our dorms and made it a point to see those freshmen graduate that he proctored. At UConn, he was one of 11 or 12 in his class and I think he was the only one to stay for that fifth year. It just shows how loyal he is. He could have grad transferred when UConn wasn't doing that great, but he took it upon himself to make things better at UConn and to be the leader and show the young guys how to work.

"I think when he gets to the NFL, his potential is even greater with more hands-on coaching and get into a system where they can teach him what they want his technique to be. I think the sky's the limit. I think at some point, I think he's going to be one of the better (tackles in this draft class)."

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MOCK DRAFT ROUNDUP

Updating you on which players the experts have the Patriots drafting...

NFL.com

Daniel Jeremiah: A.J. Espenesa, DE, Iowa
Bucky Brooks: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
Peter Schrager: Harrison Bryant, TE, FAU
Chad Reuter: Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU (at 30 after trade-down with GB)
Charles Davis: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
Lance Zierlein: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU

ESPN

Mel Kiper: Zack Baun, OLB, Wisconsin
Todd McShay: A.J. Espenesa, DE, Iowa

Others

OurLads.com: Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State
CBSSports.com: A.J. Espenesa, DE, Iowa
Pete Prisco, CBS: Zack Baun, OLB, Wisconsin
Mike Renner, PFF: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
Steve Palazzolo, PFF: Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor