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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Former Wildcats going pro

Two former Arizona football players are heading to the NFL. Tight end Rob Gronkowski and defensive tackle Earl Mitchell both heard their names called on Friday — Gronkowski in the second round to the New England Patriots and Mitchell in the third round to the Houston Texans.

For both players, Friday represented the realization of a dream come true.

“”It’s crazy,”” Mitchell said in a press conference after getting drafted. “”It’s a surreal experience, and it’s just been a dream of mine just to play professional football. It’s a good feeling. I’m excited.””

Mitchell was projected to be drafted in the third or fourth round after he complimented his stellar senior season with strong workouts at the NFL Combine and Arizona’s Pro Day.

Mitchell will fit in nicely with a defense that already has stars like defensive end Mario Williams and linebackers Demeco Ryans and Brian Cushing.

“”I get to learn from good guys that are veterans and very good players,”” Mitchell said. “”I’m very excited to be a part of that. I’m very excited to be a part of this organization.””

He’s also excited about the location. After all, it is his home.

“”Being able to play here is a fulfilled dream,”” said Mitchell, a product of Houston’s North Shore High School. “”I grew up as an Oilers fan. Houston has been a big part of my life. Just being a part of something that has Houston on it is just a great experience for me and my family.””

As for Gronkowski, his path to the NFL was a little different. The junior decided to declare for the draft a year early despite missing all of last season due to a back injury.

Had he played his junior season or come back for his senior one, Gronkowski was all but guaranteed to be a first round selection, but instead, he passsed through the first round without being picked.

It might have worked out, though, because Gronkowski was quickly scooped up in the second round by the perennial Super Bowl contenders: the New England Patriots.

“”I just believe it’s a great fit, a great program, and I believe I fit well in the organization,”” Gronkowski said in a conference call after getting picked. “”I’m just really happy for this opportunity of being drafted by the New England Patriots.””

Gronkowski said in October that he would only go pro if he was sure he’d be selected in the first round. Despite that not happening, Gronkowski is satisfied with the decision.

“”I just felt that it was always my dream to play in the NFL, and I wanted my dream to come true and fulfill my dream, and this was the opportunity to jump on board and get to the NFL as soon as possible,”” Gronkowski said. “”I hope it comes out great. I believe I went to a great team, a great organization with great coaches, great overall everything.””

The questions about his back undoubtedly played a role in slipping to the second round, but Gronkowski maintains that his back is no longer an issue.

“”That’s all in the past,”” Gronkowski said. “”My back’s 100 percent — I’m ready to play. That’s all in the past. I don’t even want to talk about that anymore.””

 

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