It took a while, but the wait turned out to be well worth it for FIU tight end Jonnu Smith.
Projected to go somewhere in the third or fourth round, Smith got the call he was hoping for before the third round closed out late Friday night when the Tennessee Titans called to tell him he was the newest member of their team, the 100th overall selection.
“I feel great; I feel fantastic. I am feeling as great as you can be,’’ Smith told TitansOnline.com.
“People kept asking me, ‘Who likes you? Who likes you?’ And I kept telling them, ‘I can’t really tell. I can’t really tell.’ But for some reason I would always tell them one team, and it was always the Titans. I said, ‘I think Tennessee loves me, to be honest.’ And I kept believing in that. I wanted to be there. Now, I am so excited to be with my new team.”
At pick No. 100, Smith became the third-highest selection in FIU history behind Johnathan Cyprien (second round, No. 33 in 2013) and T.Y. Hilton (third round, No. 92 in 2012).
Smith also became the seventh player in FIU history to be selected in the NFL Draft and the first since 2013, when Cyprien and Tourek Williams (sixth round, No. 179) were taken.
Even though there was never any bowl games to play in or a whole lot of TV exposure, Smith, who finished with 178 receptions for 2,001 yards and 18 touchdowns, excelled for the Panthers and will go down as perhaps the best tight end in program history.
Among all positions, he finished No. 4 all-time in career receptions, No. 5 in career receiving yards and No. 3 in career receiving touchdowns in the FIU record books.
Other state draft picks in the third through seventh rounds:
▪ Shaquille Griffin, CB, UCF, third round, No. 90 by Seattle: Griffin’s story is a remarkable one. He and twin brother Shaquem became one of the best stories in college football as both signed with UCF despite Shaquem having only one hand. Shaquille earned a starting role in his junior year, playing nine games at cornerback and two at safety.
▪ Trey Hendrickson, LB, FAU, third round, No. 103 by New Orleans: He garnered first-team all-conference accolades in 2015 after finishing tied for second in the FBS with 13 1/2 sacks (among his 15 tackles for loss) and five forced fumbles. League coaches named him first-team All-Conference USA again in 2016 (51 tackles, 15 for loss, 9 1/2 sacks).
▪ Marlon Mack, RB, South Florida, fourth round, No. 143 by Indianapolis: It was a major recruiting coup for USF to get the All-Florida star running back and safety to sign in Tampa and he did not let the Bulls down, becoming the school’s all-time leading rusher and earning first-team All-American Athletic Conference nods in each of his three seasons with the Bulls, finishing with an AAC-record 3,609 career yards, 4,107 all-purpose yards and 32 touchdowns.
▪ Roderick Johnson, OT, Florida State, fifth round, No. 160 by Cleveland: The past two years, Johnson received the Jacobs Blocking Trophy from ACC league coaches because of his work at left tackle. The two-time, first-team All-ACC pick started every game on the blind side since midway through the 2014 season, when he garnered freshman All-American honors for his play.
▪ Rodney Adams, WR, South Florida, fifth round, No. 170 by Minnesota: He was named second-team All-AAC in 2015 (45-822, 9 TD receiving; 10-81, TD rushing; 29.1 kick return average, TD) and 2016 (67-822, 5 TD receiving; 23-236, 5 TD rushing) because of his all-around offensive game.
▪ Kofi Amichia, OL, South Florida, sixth round, No. 212 by Green Bay: Amichia was a three-year starter for the Bulls.
▪ Marquez White, CB, Florida State, sixth round, No. 216 by Dallas: A two-sport athlete, White played basketball briefly for the Seminoles in the 2013-2014 season before quickly deciding that football was his best future profession.