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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Two ex-Wildcats to be NFL teammates

    Former UA offensive lineman Eben Britton was selected by the Jaguars with the 39th overall pick.
    Former UA offensive lineman Eben Britton was selected by the Jaguars with the 39th overall pick.

    It didn’t exactly happen the way it was supposed to, but sometimes great things come in unexpected ways.

    Perhaps after initial disappointments, former UA offensive lineman Eben Britton and wide receiver Mike Thomas can rejoice in the fact that they’ll continue to be teammates.

    Britton was the first Wildcat to be selected in the NFL Draft this weekend, going 39th overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    Being considered one of the 40 best players in college football is an honor hundreds of other draft-eligible players envy, but Britton – who was projected to be a first-round pick – couldn’t help but feel somewhat slighted by the 38 picks that proceeded him.

    “”I still get to go out and perform on Sunday and practice to earn a starting spot,”” Britton said. “”I was disappointed at first, but now I’m just incredibly humbled to play in the NFL.””

    The senior was believed to be high on several teams’ draft boards, but a series of unexpected events that unfolded Saturday forced Britton to take a back seat.

    It all started when the Oakland Raiders surprised everyone by choosing Maryland wide out Darrius Heyward-Bey rather than Missouri speedster Jeremy Maclin.

    Maclin then plummeted down from a potential top-10 pick to possibly falling out of the top 20 until the Philadelphia Eagles – a team that was rumored to be interested in Britton – traded up with the Cleveland Browns to scoop up Maclin.

    The Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings – both in need of an offensive lineman and interested in Britton – decided to take chances on skill-position players. The Lions went with Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew and the Vikings selected Florida wide receiver Percy Harvin.

    Ole Miss offensive tackle Michael Oher was selected 23rd by the Baltimore Ravens, leaving the Buffalo Bills as the only remaining team likely to take

    Britton in the first round. The Bills turned several heads by reaching for Louisville center Eric Wood, and at that point the celebratory mood turned into a grueling waiting game until he got the call from the Jaguars.

    “”I was actually outside and as soon as I got the call people started coming out to congratualte me and I didn’t even know yet,”” said Britton, who is 6-foot-6 and 310 pounds. “”They must have announced it before I got the call, but it was really exciting. A lot of anxiety turned into a lot of joy.””

    That attitude will translate well to Jacksonville’s hard-nosed coach Jack Del Rio. Although the Jaguars selected eighth in the draft this year, they were a wildcard team two years ago and upset the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round.

    Their 2008-09 season suffered because of injuries and a terrible offensive line. But with the additions of Britton and Virginia offensive tackle Eugene Monroe – Jacksonville’s first-round selection – the Jaguars did more than enough to shore up their largest weakness.

    “”I haven’t talked to (Monroe) yet, but I look forward to meeting him,””

    Britton said. “”We’re going to become great friends and hold down the o-line for a lot of years to come. I’m excited to meet him this weekend at rookie mini-camp.””

    If Britton is considered a “”steal”” as a second rounder, then the Jags hit a home run in the fourth round by selecting Thomas, the Pacific 10 Conference’s all-time leading receiver.

    Thomas – who was unavailable for comment as of press time Sunday – has second-round talent, but because of his size (5-foot-8, 195 pounds) he was projected as a third or maybe fourth-round selection. The Jaguars drafted Thomas with the seventh pick in the fourth round.

    Given the Jaguars’ recent struggles to find playmaking receivers, Thomas is entering a favorable situation. Aside from newly-acquired Torry Holt, the Jaguars’ current receivers on the roster include Troy Williamson – a former first-round selection who has yet to pan out – and unproven wide outs like D’Juan Woods and Mike Walker.

    Thomas won’t be expected to make an instant impact, but he is certainly capable of doing so. The senior can take a year or two to learn the ropes from receiver Holt, as well as receive some valuable punt and kick return tips from Dennis Northcutt – another former Wildcat.

    “”I am so pumped about (Thomas being drafted by Jacksonville). It didn’t matter where Mike got drafted, he’s a warrior and he’s going to be a player,”” Britton said. “”It’s going to be a lot of fun. We’re really excited to help the Jaguars’ organization.””

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