Ten Longhorns make splash at NFL Draft

Keshav Prathivadi and Alex Briseño

ARLINGTON, Texas — Before prospects had their names called at the NFL Draft this weekend at AT&T Stadium, prospects such as safety DeShon Elliott took to Twitter to anticipate their landing spot as well as their career goals.

Elliott, as always, kept it short and sweet — “I swear.” That was the former Longhorn’s response to a tweet predicting multiple Pro Bowlers would be selected on the second day of the draft, showing the confidence each prospect brought into the three-day event.

Elliott was the final Longhorn selected in the draft, and he didn’t take it for granted.

Elliott, among several other Longhorns, had remained on the board for a while. But as his name read atop the “Best Available Players Remaining” list, the Baltimore Ravens selected the safety in the sixth round with the No. 190 overall pick.

“My family and friends just started yelling and getting excited, and they were videoing me, grabbing on me, loving me, and they had been spending all day with me,” Elliott said. “They went through the whole process with me, and I really appreciate that.”

By the end of it, Elliott and three other Longhorns — left tackle Connor Williams, linebacker Malik Jefferson and punter Michael Dickson — had been drafted. Six more Longhorns quickly signed undrafted free agent contracts, bringing the total number of Texas players headed to the NFL to 10.

Williams was the first Longhorn off the board, getting picked up by the Dallas Cowboys during Friday’s second round with the No. 50 overall pick. Williams, a Coppell, Texas, native, found himself right at home.

“I honestly wore blue because I’m from Dallas and I love Dallas,” Williams said. “I wanted to represent the Cowboys. I didn’t say it, but I wanted to be a Cowboy. It was all worth it, and I’m happy.”

Williams, who earned first team All-American and first team All-Big 12 honors as a sophomore — only the fourth sophomore to do so in Texas history — got the ball rolling in the draft for the Longhorns.

The Cincinnati Bengals used their third-round pick on Jefferson, who was named Big 12 co-defensive player of the year and first team All-Big 12 after leading the Longhorns with 110 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and four sacks last season.

“Malik is a guy who not only has all of the skill and athletic ability you’re looking for in a great linebacker, but he’s a tremendous leader,” Texas head coach Tom Herman said.

“Cincinnati got both a great player and an unbelievable person who will be a star on the field and a pillar of the community.”

Next, arguably Texas’ biggest secret weapon in recent years, Dickson, or “The Punter,” was selected by the Seattle Seahawks in the fifth round. Dickson did nothing but improve his stock in 2017 after winning the Ray Guy Award, which is given to the nation’s best punter, in addition to being named a unanimous first team All-American and winning MVP of the Longhorns’ Texas Bowl win over Missouri in December.

As the NFL Draft concluded, several Longhorns remained on the board. But, that did not last long. Soon after the lights shut out at AT&T Stadium, news broke that an additional six former Texas players had signed with NFL organizations as undrafted free agents.

Defensive back Antwuan Davis (Detroit Lions), defensive tackle Poona Ford (Seattle Seahawks), wide receiver Armanti Foreman (Minnesota Vikings), safety Jason Hall (Seattle Seahawks), cornerback Holton Hill (Minnesota Vikings) and linebacker Naashon Hughes (Green Bay Packers) increased the number of Texas players heading to the NFL to 10 –– the most in the state of Texas and tied for most in the Big 12.

** Check out Tuesday’s paper for the behind-the-scenes feature on Connor Williams’ special moment from the 2018 NFL Draft.