Back in 1984, Virginia RB Quentin Walker was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the seventh round of the NFL Draft. One round later, the New York Jets picked Cavalier TE Billy Griggs. In each and every year since, at least one University of Virginia student-athlete has been chosen in the NFL Draft. If and when CB Ras-I Dowling is selected in the 2011 NFL Draft, it will mark the 28th consecutive year that a University of Virginia football player has been chosen.
That's a remarkable history, and a credit to the often-maligned (at least recently) UVa football program. If you dig a little deeper, you will note that Virginia players have actually been selected in 39 of the last 40 NFL Drafts, dating back to 1971, when current head coach Mike London was still in short pants. I don't know what happened in that lone year (1983) when no one was drafted, but it was clearly an exception to the rule.
A look back at Virginia's NFL Draft history reveals that 15 Hoos have been selected in the first round, beginning with the late Bullet Bill Dudley. Dudley was the #1 overall selection in the 1942 draft, by the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he went on to a Hall of Fame career. The most recent #1 selection is pictured at right; Eugene Monroe was the 8th overall selection in 2009.
In between, there have been a who's who of Virginia greats selected in the first round:
|Chris Long||2008 (2)|
|Branden Albert||2008 (15)|
|D'Brickashaw Ferguson||2006 (4)|
|Heath Miller||2005 (30)|
|Thomas Jones||2000 (7)|
|Patrick Kerney||1999 (30)|
|James Farrior||1997 (8)|
|Jon Harris||1997 (25)|
|Ray Roberts||1992 (10)|
|Herman Moore||1991 (10)|
|Jeff Lageman||1989 (14)|
|Jim Dombrowski||1986 (6)|
|Tom Glassic||1976 (15)|
|Gene Schroeder||1951 (12)|
There has been some discussion of whether Ras-I Dowling might sneak into the first round of tonight's NFL Draft. I think that's probably unlikely, though Dowling was considered a first-round talent at one time. (I fully expect he'll play well enough in the NFL that a number of teams will regret not selecting Dowling.)
Dowling will likely end up as a second-rounder, like his teammate Chris Cook, who was picked by Minnesota as the 34th overall selection last year. There is no shame in being selected in the second round. Check out this group: Clint Sintim (2009), Germane Crowell (1998), Jamie Sharper (1997), Tiki Barber (2007), Chris Slade (1993), Matt Blundin (1992), John Ford (1989), Lester Lyles (1985), Mike Ozdowski (1977), Bob Davis (1967). Dowling will be in good company if he is, in fact, taken in round two.
As noted above, Bill Dudley and Chris Long were the highest selections among UVa players. The latest selection? Back in 1973, WR Dave Sullivan was selected in the 15th round, the #384 overall pick in the draft, taken by the Cleveland Browns. Sullivan ended up getting into 7 games over two seasons for the Browns, and making five catches. Not bad, as far as I'm concerned. (How many of you have even played one NFL game?)
Finally, a note about the first Wahoo ever drafted by the NFL: Jim Gillette, who was taken in the 18th round (169th overall selection) of the 1940 Draft by the Green Bay Packers. Gillette actually signed with the Cleveland Rams and played in the NFL through the 1948 season.
Virginia players have been making us proud ever since.
The first round of the 2011 NFL Draft starts at 8 p.m. (ET) on Thursday, April 28th and SB Nation has everything you need to prepare for it - NFL mock drafts, draft projections, scouting reports, the full NFL draft order and more. Check it all out at SB Nation's NFL Draft Hub and our NFL Draft blog Mocking the Draft.