ATHENS -John Jenkins waited longer than expected, but midway through the third round of the NFL draft, the big nose tackle was finally snapped up by the New Orleans Saints.
And two picks later another Georgia player, safety Shawn Williams, was picked. The Cincinnati Bengals, continuing their love affair with Georgia players, picked Williams with the 84th overall pick.
Jenkins, the nose tackle, goes to the same team that interviewed but did not hire Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham in February. Jenkins was the seventh defensive tackle taken in the draft.
The Connecticut native played two years for Georgia, after beginning his career at Gulf Coast (Miss.) Community College. He started for most of two seasons, though his career ended early, as he was academically ineligible for the Capital One Bowl. His blend of size (ranging around 350 pounds) and athleticism was a big attraction to NFL scouts.
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Jenkins will have a chance to earn a starting position, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. New defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who was in Athens for UGA's pro day in March, is installing a 3-4 system, and the Saints' current listed starter at nose tackle, Brodrick Bunkley, is only 300 pounds.
"I'm just going to come in and work," Jenkins said, according to the Times-Picayune. "I'm not going to say anything beyond that. I'm just going to come to work. I've been doing that for some odd years. I'm just going to come in and try to learn from the veteran guys and coach Johnson."
Jenkins credited another former Georgia defensive lineman with serving as inspiration for his pro career.
“It was DeAngelo Tyson who was actually one of my teammates last year when we were in the SEC Championship game and lost the game and to see him actually establish himself as a Baltimore Raven, actually play at the Super Bowl, it made me a believer that don’t give up, anything is possible," Jenkins said. "That’s exactly what he showed me by playing in that game just a year after losing the SEC Championship and winning the Super Bowl.”
Williams was the eighth safety taken in the draft. He led Georgia in tackles in 2001, and was second in tackles this past season. Perhaps more importantly, he was one of the emotional leaders of the Georgia defense. His rant about the defense "playing soft" prior to the Florida game last year helped galvanize the defense and the entire team.
“Shawn Williams has great physical tools and has been a great leader down there on that defensive football team at the University of Georgia," Lewis said, according to a transcript. "There are a lot of good players on that team, and he’s done an outstanding job down there. Been a quarterback for the defense on the field and is an aggressive, aggressive player. He’s got great speed, quickness, measurable, moving in and out, so, we really feel like he comes here and has an opportunity again to compete for an opportunity to play and will for sure upgrade us on special teams as well. If he’s not a starting player, he’ll play and make us better on special teams."
Lewis also said that they liked that Williams played in an "NFL-style defense with Todd Grantham," and that Williams was in charge of calling out signals.
"One thing I like and fits right in with our room is that he’s not afraid to stick his face in the fire," Lewis said.
Defensive backs coach Mark Carrier, who was known in his playing days as a hard hitter, was asked why they preferred Williams over fellow Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo.
“We like his size, that he’s faster, that you can see on the field where he’s the leader, the field general out there," Carrier said. "I think personally he’s a better tackler, and if you play for Mike Zimmer and you play safety, you better be a good tackler. And this kid is a good tackler.”
Meanwhile, the wait continued for other Bulldogs, including several who were candidates to be picked in Friday's second or third rounds. Linebacker-defensive end Cornelius Washington was not picked through 85 picks, and nor were Rambo, defensive back Sanders Commings, nose tackle Kwame Geathers or receiver Tavarres King.
Georgia is expected to have a record number of players picked in this year's draft. So far only four have gone: Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree were selected in Thursday's first round.