Six Gophers headed to the NFL

In the last three years, eight players have been selected, with six of those from defense.

Mike Hendrickson

Former Gophers cornerback Eric Murray and linebacker De’Vondre Campbell were the only two Minnesota players selected in the NFL Draft over the weekend, but four more signed undrafted free agent deals after the draft concluded.
 
 
The Kansas City Chiefs selected Murray in the fourth round, 106th overall, and the Atlanta Falcons took Campbell nine picks later.
 
 
For the first time in school history, the Gophers have had six players selected with top-150 picks over the course of two years. The team has had eight players selected in the last three years, with six coming on defense.
 
 
“Five years ago, I didn’t even know if I was going to be in college, to be honest,” Campbell told the Falcons’ official website. “Sitting here, five years later, and I’m a fourth-round draft pick.”
 
 
Former Gophers wide receiver KJ Maye was the first to announce on Twitter that, despite going undrafted, he planned to sign a deal with the New York Giants. 
 
 
Cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun tweeted out he intended to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Defensive end Theiren Cockran tweeted his intentions to sign with the Minnesota Vikings, and punter Peter Mortell ended the day tweeting he planned to sign with his hometown team, the Green Bay Packers.
 
 
Four Gophers players were drafted last year, and defensive lineman Cameron Botticelli signed an undrafted free agent deal the day the draft concluded.
 
 
Murray’s selection marked the third year in a row a Gophers defensive back was taken, after Brock Vereen was drafted in 2013 and Cedric Thompson was taken in 2014. 
 

Former Gophers cornerback Eric Murray and linebacker De’Vondre Campbell were the only two Minnesota players selected in the NFL Draft over the weekend, but four more signed undrafted free agent deals after the draft concluded.

The Kansas City Chiefs selected Murray in the fourth round, 106th overall, and the Atlanta Falcons took Campbell nine picks later.

For the first time in school history, the Gophers have had six players selected with top-150 picks over the course of two years. The team has had eight players selected in the last three years, with six coming on defense.

“Five years ago, I didn’t even know if I was going to be in college to be honest,” Campbell told the Falcons’ official website. “Sitting here, five years later, and I’m a fourth-round draft pick.”

Former Gophers wide receiver KJ Maye was the first to announce on Twitter that, despite going undrafted, he planned to sign a deal with the New York Giants.

Cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun tweeted out he intended to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Defensive end Theiren Cockran tweeted his intentions to sign with the Minnesota Vikings, and punter Peter Mortell ended the day tweeting he planned to sign with his hometown team, the Green Bay Packers.

Four Gophers players were drafted last year, and defensive lineman Cameron Botticelli signed an undrafted free agent deal the day the draft concluded.

Murray’s selection marked the third year in a row a Gophers defensive back was taken, after Brock Vereen was drafted in 2013 and Cedric Thompson was taken in 2014. Minnesota is one of only five schools to have a defensive back go in the draft the last three years.

“[Murray] is the best football player I have had the pleasure of coaching in my career,” head coach Tracy Claeys said in a statement. “[He] loves the game and has the potential to be a lockdown corner who can eliminate half of the field and provide problems for an opposing offense.”

Murray told reporters after his selection that he was already familiar with his new team, as the Chiefs were one of his favorite teams to play with in video games.

“I have been following the Chiefs very closely,” Murray said. “They mainly play my style of football. They play a lot of man, and that fits me well. I just want to be a physical person, come in there and do my job.”

Campbell became the second Minnesota linebacker to be drafted in the past two years. The Dallas Cowboys selected Damien Wilson last year, also in the fourth round.

His selection also marked the second time in three years the Falcons selected a Minnesota player. The team took defensive lineman Ra’Shede Hageman in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

“De’Vondre is a big, fast, athletic linebacker, who can cover a lot of field and make plays,” Claeys said in a statement. “You cannot teach height and speed, and he has plenty of both.”

Boddy-Calhoun was viewed as a possible draft selection along with Campbell and Murray, but his moment never came. He will still get a chance to compete for a roster spot, along with Maye, Cockran and Mortell.

If Mortell ever records a punt in the NFL, he would be the first Minnesota player to do so since Joe Prokop in 1992.