Friday, April 26, 2013

Former Huskies taken in rapid succession

Dwayne Gratz moved his way up draft boards following the end of his college
career and ended up being the first UConn player taken in the 2013 NFL draft.

The first two rounds came and gone and none of UConn's NFL draft hopefuls heard their names called.

However, the hours of breathless anticipation ended in a flurry of activity with Dwayne Gratz, Sio Moore and Blidi Wreh-Wilson going within seven picks of each other early in the third round.

“I was nervous, anxious, everything,” Gratz said. “I was thinking about so much. I didn't where I was going to end up, what’s next chapter in my life. After watching a few cornerbacks got picked up it got even worse but once I got the call everything went away and I was excited.”

If Gratz was excited when his name was called, you could imagine his emotions when he saw Moore and Wreh-Wilson taken in rapid succession.

“It was exciting to see all of my teammates (drafted) because we all put in the hard work playing at UConn for five years and it was great to see them rewarded for their hard work,” Gratz said.

“We all wanted to see each other go high. It didn't matter who went first or who went last. We are all teammates and we all want to see each other do well. It felt good, I am not going to lie to you because I was always the underdog. A lot of people didn't know me, the type of player I was, the type of person I was and being able to be the first one it was an honor.”

When he wasn’t taken by the end of round two, Moore expressed his frustration on Twitter and vowed to play with a chip on his shoulder whenever he did get the call.

Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Sio Moore went five picks apart in the third round in the NFL draft
“It is what I am used to, the whole process just reinforced that,” Moore said of being overlooked. “I’m glad I came to Oakland Raiders, they know they go the best linebacker in the class and I am glad to be a part of that organization."

Moore said he jumped out of his seat when he saw Gratz's name pop up on the television screen just minutes before he realized a lifelong dream by being drafted.

"I did jump out of my chair, he knows what I feel like," Moore said.  "He is not a friend, he is not a teammate, he is my brother."

Many draft experts thought Wreh-Wilson would be the first UConn player taken and there was even a thought that he may join Donald Brown (the 27th pick of the 2009 draft) and the only first rounders to come out of UConn. However, Wreh-Wilson's agent told him to expect to go in the range where he was selected.

"My agent gave me a range and it was within the range that he gave me so I kind of knew what was coming my way," Wreh-Wilson said. "When 3 (Moore) and 7 (Gratz) went, I knew 5 was coming soon."

He knew that Tennessee had significant interest in him thanks to a conversation with a Tennessee scout during UConn's pro day.

"Before the pro day I was supposed to have a workout with them and they came to the pro day," Wreh-Wilson said. "While everybody  was on the bench, I wasn't on the bench because I did it at the combine but the area scout had told me he was disappointed I didn't work for him because Dwayne and I were supposed to do a workout. He said 'it kind of makes you look bad, this and that.' and I said 'I left like the pro day would be the best opportunity for me to show what I could really do.' They obviously had some concerns that I didn't work out for them  but at the end of the day they ended up picking me so  I am just glad they did."

Trevardo Williams, UConn's career sacks leader, was also considered a possibility to go in the third round but he will have to wait until Saturday to see which team selects him.

Two other players with Connecticut ties went in the third round. Meriden’s John Jenkins, a defensive tackle out of the University of Georgia, was taken with the 82nd pick by New Orleans while New London’s Jordan Reed, a tight end out of Florida, was taken by Washington with the 85th pick

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