Owens, Weston go in final few picks
By DAVID HALE
ATHENS, Ga. — The wait was long for all of them, but when their names finally were called, the five former Georgia players selected in the 2010 NFL draft still seemed a bit unprepared for their big moments.
Unlike last year when two Bulldogs were selected in the first round — including No. 1 overall pick Matthew Stafford — Georgia’s alums were forced to wait a bit longer for their official invitations to the NFL, with only linebacker Rennie Curran selected Friday and two others — defensive tackles Jeff Owens and Kade Weston — forced to wait until the final few picks in the draft.
“Getting to the end was the toughest part,” said Weston, who was taken by the New England Patriots with the 248th overall pick. “The worst part is when teams start calling and tell you to look out for your name. ‘We have this pick and if you’re still available, we’ll get you.’ But then you see them take other guys. A couple teams called and then took other D tackles. That was the frustrating part.”
The frustrations evaporated quickly when their names were finally announced, however, and even for Curran, the first former Georgia player taken, it was a frenetic finish to what seemed a monotonous wait.
Curran was selected 97th overall by the Tennessee Titans, among the final picks of Friday night’s third round, and the linebacker was prepared to wait overnight for the fourth round to begin when he finally got the call.
“We had been watching the draft since like 6:00, and everybody was tired, everybody was worn out, eyes getting heavy just waiting on that call,” Curran said. “All of a sudden I saw that (Nashville, Tenn. area code) number, and it was the best thing I’ve ever seen.”
The reaction was immediate. Curran said his Facebook and Twitter pages were overrun with congratulatory messages, and he had more than 200 text messages from friends and family by the time he finished fielding phone calls from media and his new team.
Defensive tackle Geno Atkins wasn’t quite as patient as Curran.
Although Friday night’s picks ended with Atkins listed among ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper’s top remaining players, he didn’t wake up Saturday morning with the intention of sitting still.
Instead, Atkins got in his car and was driving to visit his grandmother when the phone rang.
“It was kind of surreal,” Atkins said. “I’d just left the house to go to my grandma’s house and I got a call from the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals. He called me up to say I was the 120th pick of the draft, and I was like, ‘Wow.’ It was a surreal moment because I finally got drafted, but I didn’t get to see my name go up or anything like that.”
Safety Reshad Jones was next off the board for Georgia, taken in the fifth round at pick No. 163 by the Miami Dolphins, one of two teams that had invited him for an individual workout this month.
For Owens, the wait dragged on longer. Considered by some to be a potential first-round selection two years ago, Owens blew out his knee in Georgia’s opening game in 2008 and missed the rest of the year. He returned last season for a second shot at his senior campaign and turned in a solid performance, then dominated at the Senior Bowl and the NFL draft combine earlier this year. Still, Owens said teams worried about his knee.
“I wondered why it was taking so long to go off the board, but I guess a bunch of teams were still worried about the knee injury,” he said. “I thought that was in the past. I’ve been healthy from that. Now I’m just trying to go out and show I can play in the NFL.”
The call finally came for Owens when the Philadelphia Eagles selected him with the 243rd pick in the draft.
Eagles’ defensive line coach Rory Segrest had called Owens twice before he officially was selected to inform the former Bulldog of Philadelphia’s interest. Segrest told Owens that nothing was official until he got the stamp of approval from head coach Andy Reid, but he assured Owens that when the pick was made, he expected Owens to step in and compete for a job.
“That’s my goal is to come in and work hard and compete and play for a job,” Owens said.
Shortly after being selected, Owens got a call from Weston offering congratulations. The two had no sooner hung up than Weston got his own call from the Patriots, letting him know he had been drafted, too — meaning three of Georgia’s 2009 defensive tackles would be playing in the NFL.
Weston said he had talked to Atkins earlier in the day, and the two reminisced about old times and how far they had come. When the draft ended, Weston jumped on the Internet to search the Patriots’ 2010 schedule to see when he might get a chance to go against his former teammates.
The coincidental draft day dynamics weren’t limited to the former Bulldogs either. Among Owens’ teammates in Philadelphia will be former Georgia signee Jamar Chaney, who ended up playing at Mississippi State.
“I guess we’re supposed to finally get a chance to play together,” Owens said.
Curran had no expectations of being drafted by Tennessee, but he had met Titans linebacker Stephen Tulloch this year and joked with him Friday via Twitter that he might one day play alongside Tulloch.
A few minutes after Curran was selected, Tulloch responded to Curran’s tweet with a simple message: “Now you are.”
Receiver Michael Moore signed a free-agent contract with the Detroit Lions after the draft concluded.
Then he sent out a message via Twitter to Stafford, his former teammate: “Detroit Lions baby!!! Let’s get it Staff!!!”