Justin Skule “honored” to be picked by 49ers in sixth round of NFL Draft


Hunter Long

Vanderbilt last beat Tennessee in 2018, Nov. 24, 2018. (Photo by Hunter Long)

Cutler Klein, Sports Editor

As the 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville dragged into the afternoon, Vanderbilt Tackle Justin Skule needed a break.

He went to hang out with his younger brothers to take his mind off of the stress of watching name after name pop up on the ticker. As the sixth round began, Skule sat back in front of the TV to watch again.

Then, his phone started buzzing. It was San Francisco 49ers General Manager John Lynch calling to tell Skule he was being selected with the 183rd overall pick in the sixth round.

Skule’s NFL dream had been realized.

“It’s a very surreal feeling,” Skule told The Vanderbilt Hustler. “It still almost doesn’t feel real still to this point, but it’s obviously an amazing feeling. I’m very honored to be in this position and just can’t wait to get to work.”

A native of Clifton, Virginia, Skule started all 25 games for the Commodores in 2017 and 2018 and became a leader on the offensive side of the ball. While he wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine, his 6’7”, 317-pound frame naturally drew scouts’ attention.

“Top-heavy, high-cut swing tackle prospect who plays with a lack of bend and possesses average physical traits, but finds ways to get guys blocked using technique and football intelligence,” said NFL.com’s draft profile. “The step up on competition may be too much for Skule in pass protection, but he may have enough agility to warrant an extended look as a player who can swing between guard and tackle either at the back-end of a roster or on a practice squad.”

Skule is the latest in a long line of Commodore offensive linemen to get NFL looks. Will Holden was selected in the fifth round by the Arizona Cardinals in 2017, and others such as Wesley Johnson, Ryan Seymour and Spencer Pulley have all had successful NFL careers.

“I think [Offensive Line] Coach [Cameron] Norcross does a great job with us preparing us mentally and physically for that,” Skule said. “And then just being challenged in everything that we do at Vanderbilt, whether it’s on the field, off the field, we have to compete in everything that we do and so I think that really helps us with that edge. You’re always competing, you can never be satisfied with where you’re at.”

In San Francisco, Skule will have the chance to block for an up-and-coming star quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. He will also get to play alongside former Vanderbilt Wide Receiver Jordan Matthews, who signed with the 49ers this offseason.

On top of just having a Vanderbilt teammate on the roster, the Bay Area boasts a number of notable Vanderbilt alums, including Golden State Warrior Damian Jones and San Francisco Giant Tyler Beede. Skule said he’s grateful to have such an incredible alumni network from Vanderbilt across the board.

“Vanderbilt is such a special place,” Skule said. “No matter where you go, whether it’s with athletics or just people in general, there will always be a connection with Vandy across the country.”

He is the second Vanderbilt player taken in the 2019 NFL Draft after cornerback Joejuan Williams was selected by the New England Patriots in the second round. Those two will join a slowly growing group of Vanderbilt alums in the NFL.

“It’s very special,” Skule said. “There’s not a bunch, but it’s growing and it’s growing fast. To be a part of that is a huge honor.”

One player that Skule hopes will join him in the NFL is Kyle Shurmur, who was passed over entirely in the draft and will have to sign somewhere as an undrafted free agent. Skule has complete faith that Shurmur will make it no matter what.

“I think he should have been picked by now before this, but I think whoever gets him no matter when they take him is getting a steal for sure,” he said. “I think he’s the smartest quarterback in the draft and I think he’s going to be very successful wherever he goes.”