While Rokevious Watkins got an early surprise, Antonio Allen and Travian Robertson had a stressful but ultimately very rewarding Saturday.
Allen, a 6-foot-2, 202-pound safety who was a second team All-American this season, was taken by the New York Jets with the 35th pick of the seventh round of the NFL Draft (No. 242 overall), just 11 spots before the draft ended.
I put so much hard work into this season, and I wanted to get drafted, he said. My stats were crazy stats. I dont know why I wouldnt get drafted. I was getting kind of disappointed, but once I got that phone call I cheered up immediately.
Allen, who had 88 tackles and three interceptions this year, felt even better after the phone call, during which he talked to Jets head coach Rex Ryan, one of the leagues top defensive coaches.
He told me was going to put me in some nice positions to make some plays, Allen said.
Allen entered Saturdays fourth round listed as the sixth-best player available by ESPN analyst Mel Kiper, and he expected to be picked in the fourth or fifth round.
Robertson had to wait even longer than Allen. He was taken with the 249th overall selection, four spots from the end of the draft, by the Atlanta Falcons. In fact, Robertson had given up on being selected and had left a friends home where he was watching the draft. While he drove home, he was on the phone with his agent discussing possible free agent deals when the Falcons called.
When they said they were about to pick me, my heart dropped, and I was excited, he said. My day started off long, but it went from low to high real quick.
Robertson, a 6-4, 303-pound defensive tackle who played in the second-most games in school history (56) and had 123 tackles and 6.5 sacks in his career, will join former Gamecocks Cliff Matthews, John Abraham and Dunta Robinson in Atlanta. He called Matthews, his former roommate in Columbia, as soon as he got off the phone with the Falcons, he said.
I know its a perfect place for me to be to make the team and not be too far from home, he said. My dream came true. Im still shocked.
Watkins, meanwhile, went earlier than expected. He was taken in the fifth round, with the 150th overall pick, by the St. Louis Rams. The 6-4, 340-pound offensive lineman started all 13 games last year and earned All-SEC honors.
I had no idea I was going to St. Louis, he told the Associated Press. I was a lot surprised. I was just waiting around and hoping to hear my name called, and it got called and now Im ready to get up there to St. Louis and go to work.
Watkins, Allen and Robertson joined cornerback Stephon Gilmore, defensive end Melvin Ingram and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery in this years pro draft class. The six Gamecocks selected into the NFL was the most since 2009 (seven) and tied with 1988 for the third-highest total in school history. Nine South Carolina products were taken in the 1954 draft.
On their Twitter accounts:
... wide receiver Jason Barnes indicated he has signed a free agent deal with San Diego
... cornerback Marty Markett said he is headed to Atlanta as free agent.
... cornerback C.C. Whitlock said he will sign a free agent deal with Minnesota.