Troy’s history in the NFL Draft

Published 9:58 am Friday, April 28, 2023

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As the 2023 NFL Draft rolls on this weekend, a number of Troy Trojans have the opportunity to be selected as they continue to chase Pro Football dreams.

NFL Draft Analysts and mock drafts have suggested that Jake Andrews, Carlton Martial, Shakel Brown and RaJae’ Johnson all have the possibility of being drafted this weekend at various points. Will Choloh, DK Billingsley, Craig Slocum Jr., KJ Robertson and Austin Stidham are all draft eligible, as well. Quarterback Jarret Doege recently signed with the Canadian Football League (CFL).

While in recent years, Trojans have been mostly absent from the NFL Draft, Troy does have a rich history of players being selected. Last season, former All-American Trojan Marcus Jones – who ended his college career at Houston – was selected in the third round by the New England Patriots. Jones would go on to become an All-Rookie player with the Patriots. While Jones started his college career at Troy, offensive lineman Antonio Garcia is the last Trojan who finished their career at Troy to be drafted, way back in 2017.

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The first Trojan to ever be selected in the draft was in 1969 when the Miami Dolphins selected tight end Glenn Thompson in the 14th round. The next season, the Patriots selected defensive back Ronnie Shelly in the 13th round. Shelley is also a Troy Sports Hall of Famer.

Willie Tullis played for eight years in the NFL.

In 1971, the Philadelphia Eagles selected defensive back Jack Smith in the sixth round as Smith was the first Trojan to ever be selected in the first seven rounds of the draft, which is how many rounds the modern draft holds. Defensive tackle Wade Brantley was selected by the New York Giants in the sixth round in 1973, as well.

The New York Jets selected receiver Perry Griggs in the fifth round in 1977 and the San Francisco 49ers took defensive end Willie McCray in the 11th round of the 1978 Draft. In 1980, receiver Virgil Seay was selected by the Denver Broncos. Seay went on to play for four years in the NFL, winning a Super Bowl with the Washington Redskins in 1983. Seay ended his NFL career with 43 catches for 792 yards and five touchdowns. He also returned 16 kickoffs for 362 yards during his career.

In 1981, the Houston Oilers selected Willie Tullis in the eighth round. Tullis went on to play for eight years in the NFL with the Oilers, New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts but did so at a different position. He was a two-time All-Conference selection and 1980 Gulf South Offensive Player of the Year as a quarterback at Troy. In the NFL, he played cornerback. He started 57 career games and played in 106 during his pro career, intercepting a career high five passes in 1983. During his NFL career, Tullis intercepted 18 passes and recovered four fumbles. He is a Troy Sports Hall of Famer.

The Patriots selected receiver Kevin Murdock in the ninth round of the 1982 Draft, while the Redskins selected offensive lineman Mitch Geier in the ninth round of the 1985 Draft. In 1986, the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted linebacker Anthony Henton in the ninth round. Henton went on to play for two seasons with the Steelers and earned Defensive Rookie of the Year from his team.

The Giants selected receiver Greg Harris in the 11th round of the 1988 draft and the Jets took receiver Titus Dixon in the sixth round the next year. 1992 marked the first year that multiple Trojans were selected in the same draft. The Cincinnati Bengals selected defensive back Leonard Wheeler in the third round – making him the first Trojan to go higher than the fifth round – and the Atlanta Falcons selected tight end Reggie Dwight in the eighth round.

In fact, three former Trojans were actually selected in 1992 – two the same team in back-to-back picks – as former Troy running back Derrick Moore was also selected by the Falcons just before Dwight was at No. 216 overall, with Dwight following at No. 217. Moore played for Troy in 1990, tallying 1,043 yards in his lone season with the Trojans before going to Northeastern State University for his senior season. Moore went on to play for six years in the NFL before becoming a college coach. In 1995, Moore rushed for 740 yards and four touchdowns for the Carolina Panthers. He currently serves on the staff at South Carolina. Wheeler went on to play in the NFL for six years, playing in 92 career games with 116 career tackles.

In 1994, the Jets took receiver Orlando Parker, who became Troy’s first draft pick since moving to Division I, in the fourth round. In 1997, the Oilers selected defensive end Pratt Lyons in the fourth round and he went on to record 4.5 sacks in his career. In 1998, the San Diego Chargers selected defensive back Clifford Ivory in the sixth round. Ivory would eventually go on to become an All-Star in the CFL.

Defensive tackle Marcus Spriggs was taken by the Cleveland Browns in the sixth round of the 1999 NFL Draft and went on to play for seven years in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and Green Bay Packers.

The 2000s and 2010s saw more success for former Trojans, both in the draft and the NFL itself. A pair of Troy players were selected in 2000, offensive lineman Michael Moore in the fourth round by the Washington Redskins and receiver Mareno Philyaw in the sixth round by the Atlanta Falcons. Moore played in the NFL for four years and Philyaw – a star receiver at Troy – played for three years before becoming a longtime player in the Arena Football League (AFL). He also went on to begin coaching in indoor football leagues.

Osi Umenyiora was a star player in the NFL for 11 years.

In 2001, receiver Jonathan Carter was selected in the fifth round of the draft by the Giants and 2003 saw a pair of players selected. Defensive end Osi Umenyiora became the first Trojan to be selected since the move to FBS (Division I-A) and became the first player selected in the first two rounds of the draft when the Giants selected him in the second round. Later in the draft, defensive tackle Davern Williams was selected by the Miami Dolphins in the seventh round.

Williams played two years in the NFL but then went on to have a very successful coaching career, even returning to Troy in 2019 to serve under Neal Brown and later Chip Lindsey. He currently serves on the staff at UAB but may be most known for his time as an assistant coach at East Mississippi Community College, taking part in the first two seasons of Last Chance U on Netflix.

Umenyiora, meanwhile, went on to become one of the best pass rushers in the NFL during his career. Umenyiora became the first former Trojan to earn All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors in 2005 and went on to become a two-time Super Bowl Champion. Umenyiora finished his career as a two-time All-Pro, two-time Pro Bowler, broke the NFL record for forced fumbles in a season and was inducted into the New York Giants’ Ring of Honor and Troy University Sports Hall of Fame. Umenyiora played for 11 years in the NFL for the Giants and Falcons.

With as much success as Umenyiora had, Troy’s next draft pick went even further. In 2005, DeMarcus Ware become the first Trojan to ever be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft when the Dallas Cowboys selected him 11th overall. Ware would reward the Cowboys by becoming one of the best pass rushers in the history of the NFL.

Ware played for 11 years for both the Cowboys and Broncos. He was the NFL sack leader twice, earned nine Pro Bowl appearances, was named All-Pro seven times, won the Pro Butkus Award twice, tied the NFL record for most seasons leading the league in sacks, won a Super Bowl, was named to the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team and this year was named an NFL Hall of Famer. He currently serves as a pass rush consultant for the Broncos.

In 2007, the Colts selected defensive back Brannon Condren in the fourth round and he went on to play for three years in the NFL. Then, in 2008, Troy’s second player to be taken in the first round was Leodis McKelvin. In fact, McKelvin – like Ware – was taken 11th overall by the Buffalo Bills.

Leodis McKelvin was a star cornerback and kick returner in the NFL.

McKelvin played for eight years in the NFL and earned All-Rookie honors in 2008. He started 72 career games, recorded 15 interceptions, returned two for touchdowns, tallied 360 career tackles and recovered nine fumbles during his career. He was also a stellar kick returner, returning 99 punts for 1,021 yards and three touchdowns along with returning 95 kickoffs for 2,471 yards and one touchdown.

In 2009, the Carolina Panthers selected Sherrod Martin in the second round of the draft and he went on to play for six years in the NFL for the Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears.

In 2010, a total of three Trojans were drafted. The Kanas City Chiefs selected linebacker Cameron Sheffield in the fifth round, while the Arizona Cardinals drafted defensive back Jorrick Calvin in the sixth round and the Bills drafted quarterback Levi Brown in the seventh round. Sheffield played for three years in the NFL and then one more in the CFL, while Calvin spent one year in the NFL and three in the AFL. Brown played for the Bills for two seasons and went on to play two years in the CFL. He currently serves as offensive coordinator at River Ridge High School.

In 2011, the Giants selected receiver Jerrel Jernigan in the third round. Jernigan played for four years in the NFL, winning a Super Bowl with the Giants. Jernigan is now the head coach of his high school alma mater, Eufaula High School.

In 2012, defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi was selected by the Falcons in the fifth round. He played for three years with the Falcons and went on to play for the Birmingham Iron in the AAF in 2019 and the DC Defenders of the XFL in 2020.

Garcia was selected in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Patriots before an illness derailed his career. He went on to play in the CFL for two years and played for both the Vegas Vipers and DC Defenders in the XFL this season.

If Andrews, Martial, Johnson and Brown are all taken in the NFL Draft this weekend it will be the most Troy players ever selected in the same draft. Rounds two through three take place tonight, beginning at 6 p.m., while the fourth through seventh rounds take place April 29 beginning at 11 a.m. All rounds will be broadcasted on the NFL Network and ESPN.