- The Washington Times - Monday, April 28, 2008

NEW YORK (AP) - After threatening Barry Sanders’ single-season rushing record in college, Kevin Smith now can concentrate - or at least dream about - Sanders’ marks with the Detroit Lions.

The Central Florida running back and nation’s leading rusher in 2007 was chosen first in the third round of the NFL Draft yesterday. The Lions even traded up two spots with the Miami Dolphins for the privilege of beginning the second day by grabbing Smith.

Last season, Smith rushed for 2,567 yards and scored 29 touchdowns. Sanders set the single-season record with 2,628 in 1988, when he won the Heisman Trophy. He went on to a Hall of Fame career over the next decade with the Lions.

Detroit will settle for a semblance of that from Smith, who left the Conference USA school as a junior after first saying he would return to college.

“I never thought of myself as chasing Barry Sanders. He’s a legend,” Smith said. “My numbers might have been close, but I was just thrilled to be close to someone like that. Now I get to play in the same organization, which is a dream come true.”

And enough to make a guy weep.

“The coach told me that they were going to come up to get me, and he put me on the phone with all the coaches, and I just burst into tears,” Smith admitted.

He was one of two All-Americans chosen in the third round. Penn State linebacker Dan Connor went to the Carolina Panthers 10 spots later.

Connor left Linebacker U as its career tackles leader with 419. In the last few years, the Panthers have lost some starters at the position, notably Will Witherspoon and Dan Morgan. They hit with Jon Beason, their first-rounder last year, at middle linebacker.

“It’s going to be great to be able to learn under a bunch of great linebackers and guys that have experience,” Connor said. “I’m more looking forward to that, taking it all in and learning from guys who have proven themselves every week on Sundays.”

Other third-rounders looking to prove themselves in the NFL will be defensive back Chevis Jackson (Atlanta), running back Jacob Hester (San Diego) and receiver Early Doucet (Arizona), all from national champion LSU. Hester could fill the role of LaDainian Tomlinson’s stand-in previously held by Michael Turner, now with the Falcons, and the Cardinals need another wideout after losing Bryant Johnson to San Francisco.

Texas running back Jamaal Charles was chosen by Kansas City, and West Virginia running back Steve Slaton was drafted by Houston. The Giants took Michigan’s big-play receiver, Mario Manningham, who could be groomed eventually to replace former Wolverines player Amani Toomer.

New England chose San Diego State quarterback Kevin O’Connell, causing one pundit to remark: “Is this the end of the Tom Brady era?”

Uh, no.

Another San Diego area quarterback went late in the fifth round when Josh Johnson of the University of San Diego Toreros was chosen by Tampa Bay, which has as many quarterbacks as some entire divisions.

Southern Cal quarterback John David Booty was the second selection in the fifth round by Minnesota after the Vikings made an in-division deal with Green Bay. The Packers already had their quarterback of the future: Brian Brohm, chosen in the second round on Saturday, but they still took Matt Flynn of LSU in the seventh.

Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge went to the Jets at No. 162 overall, six spots after Oregon’s Dennis Dixon was taken by Pittsburgh. The Steelers are hoping the fast, versatile Dixon can recover from a severe knee injury to make the team.

In all, the two days and seven rounds ” the first two rounds featured shortened time frames for picks ” took 14 hours, 26 minutes. David Vobora, a defensive back/linebacker from Idaho, was the final selection.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide