Four Gophers selected in NFL Draft

by Jack Satzinger

Damien Wilson was sitting with his family in Mississippi on Saturday afternoon eating chips and watching television when his phone started buzzing. 

The former Gophers linebacker didn’t recognize the number calling, but when he answered a familiar sports figure was on the line: Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

“I just had to ask myself, ‘Was it real?’” Wilson said. “It’s an honor to be able to play for the Cowboys.”

A day after tight end Maxx Williams was taken 55th overall in the NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens, Dallas selected Wilson at No. 127 in the fourth round, jumpstarting a big day for the Gophers.

Eleven picks after the Cowboys picked Wilson, running back David Cobb had his number called by the Tennessee Titans early in the fifth round. Just a few minutes later, former Gophers safety Cedric Thompson went to the Miami Dolphins at pick No. 150.

“I was crying forever,” Thompson said. “It was really emotional to finally see a dream that I’ve been dreaming of since I was eight or nine years old and it’s finally here.”

The four selections mark the first time Minnesota has produced as many NFL Draft picks since 2006.

Some mock drafts projected Williams going as early as late in the first round but the athletic tight end didn’t slip much further than most analysts projected, falling to the bottom half of the second round.

He’ll join a talented team in the Ravens that’s trying to build around quarterback Joe Flacco after winning the Super Bowl in 2013.

“I told everyone I was trying to be a starter right away,” Williams said to reporters in a conference call after being selected. “That’s what I want. I want to go and prove that I can help make a difference and help win a championship.”

Cobb was widely expected to be the second Minnesota player taken in the Draft, but didn’t benefit from being part of one of the deepest running back classes in recent memory. The Killeen, Texas, native was the 13th player selected at his position after Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon became the first running backs taken in the first round since 2012.

“David is a guy who everybody wants to evaluate by speed, but I evaluate him by production,” Gophers head coach Jerry Kill said in a statement. “He is a big back who has great vision. He can break tackles and is a physical blocker. He is a well-rounded back and is going to be a steal for Tennessee.”

Arguably the biggest surprise of the day for the Gophers was Thompson getting picked in the fifth round. He increased his stock greatly with a strong Pro Day performance but was still considered a later round selection coming into the Draft.

Thompson visited Miami last Monday and met with the Dolphins’ coaching staff.

“I really loved the organization and the coaches,” he said. “When they brought me in they really tried to figure out who I was and they loved who I was and I loved who they were and I just really felt like it was a perfect match.”