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April 24, 2010They waited Sunday morning, and then they waited some more.
Finally, in the seventh round, the University of Alabama football program had two former players selected on the third and final day of the NFL Draft, cornerback Marquis Johnson No. 211 overall by the St. Louis Rams, and defensive end Brandon Deaderick No. 247 by the New England Patriots.
"It was great, it was wonderful," Johnson said. "I expected it, but I didn't expect it. I knew free agency was guaranteed and it was 50-50 whether I'd get drafted.
"(The Rams) were probably on me the hardest. It's all good. I appreciate what they did for me and I love it."
Johnson wasn't invited to the NFL Combine after tying teammate Mark Barron for the SEC lead in passes defended with 17, and also had knee surgery to fix a torn meniscus after his Crimson Tide career had concluded.
"We all know Nick Saban does a good job defensively and they are very similar, corner-wise, to what we do," Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "We saw that same thing in Marquis so hopefully he'll be a good fit."
Although at least five others waited in vain for the phone call that never came through 255 picks, it was still a record-setting draft for the reigning national champions. Alabama's seven selections tied with Oklahoma and Southern California for the second-most behind Florida's nine, but were the most the Tide has ever had during a seven-round draft.
Alabama's record for most players selected in a single draft was 10 in 1945, with the modern record eight in 1987 during a 12-round draft. Alabama had six selections in both 1993-94, after the draft was shortened.
Incidentally, the record for picks in a single draft is Texas in 1984, with 17 players selected in 12 rounds. In a seven-round draft it's Ohio State with 14 in 2004.
For the fourth straight year, and 11 of the past 13, the SEC led all conferences 49 selections, ahead of the Big Ten (34), ACC (31), Big 12 (30) and Pac-10 (29).
Meanwhile, tight end Colin Peek, kicker Leigh Tiffin, running back Roy Upchurch, defensive lineman Lorenzo Washington and safety Justin Woodall all went undrafted. While Peek, who had durability questions, quickly signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Falcons, the others along with linebacker Cory Reamer and Eryk Anders hope to be quickly picked up.
Both seventh-round selections overcame a lot during the past year. For Johnson, who was not considered one of the two traditional starting cornerbacks (Kareem Jackson, first round, Houston; and Javier Arenas, second round, Kansas City) it was coming back and improving after a rough performance in the 2008 SEC Championship Game. He called the time period from playing Florida and the season opener against Virginia Tech the most challenging of his life.
"I'll probably never go through something like that again," the vindicated Johnson said.
Meanwhile, Deaderick was shot during a failed carjacking mere days before facing the Hokies at the Georgia Dome and played most of the season with a bullet hole in his arm. He had offseason shoulder surgery and also wasn't invited to the Combine, but sat in the stands in Indianapolis and met NFL officials.
Deaderick was one of 12 selections made by the Patriots, including four in the seventh round.
"We're definitely better," Coach Bill Belichick said.
Deaderick told Patriots reporters that, "It's basically going to be like playing for Coach Saban all over again."
Saturday was in sharp contrast to Thursday night when the Oakland Raiders began to revamp their defense by selecting middle linebacker Rolando McClain with the eighth-overall pick. It caused Coach Tom Cable to tell reporters that he was "geeked."
"That's the best word that I can use," Caple continued. "I know it sounds silly, but it's just what I feel right now. This is obviously a long process that we go through, but this is a great piece to the Oakland Raiders' future."
Peek, who was not one of 20 tight ends selected, will join former Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson and offensive lineman Mike Johnson, who was the last pick in third round, with the Falcons.
"I've had a dream year," Mike Johnson said. "I couldn't ask for a better year. This just continues the dream. This is really the team I wanted to play for all along."