Friday’s NFL drought became Saturday’s downpour for the University of Miami.
Eight Miami Hurricanes were selected on the final day of the NFL Draft – nine in all – including the one who Hurricanes fans undoubtedly thought might never be chosen.
After what had to be an excruciatingly long wait, Brad Kaaya, the record-breaking Hurricane who skipped his senior season to enter the NFL Draft, achieved a lifelong dream by being the 215th player overall – 32nd in the sixth round – selected by the Detroit Lions.
The nine Canes taken in this year’s draft were the third most behind Michigan and Alabama and most taken since 2006, when nine were also drafted.
“Pretty much the only thing they’ve said is, ‘Hey, you’re getting an opportunity to come in to work,’’ Kaaya said during a Lions teleconference. “’Just put your head down and grind.’ Nothing’s promised right now. It’s just about proving myself to the staff and learning and getting better…’’
The other Hurricanes selected in the draft: tight end David Njoku (29th overall) on Thursday to the Cleveland Browns; safety Rayshawn Jenkins (fourth round, 113th overall), the first Cane taken Saturday, to the Los Angeles Chargers; cornerback Corn Elder (fifth round, 152nd overall) to the Carolina Panthers; guard Danny Isidora (fifth round, 180th overall) to the Minnesota Vikings; defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad (sixth round, 196th overall) to the New Orleans Saints; receiver Stacy Coley (seventh round, 219th overall) to the Vikings; cornerback Adrian Colbert (seventh round, 229th overall) to the San Francisco 49ers; and fullback Marquez Williams (seventh round, 240th overall) to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Kaaya, who threw for a career 9,968 yards, became the first UM quarterback drafted since Ken Dorsey went to the San Francisco 49ers in the seventh round in 2003, and first UM QB drafted higher than the seventh round since Craig Erickson went to Tampa Bay in the fourth round in 1992.
And now Kaaya will be throwing to tight ends coached by his former head coach Al Golden, who obviously had a hand in the selection. He will compete for the backup job with former St. Thomas Aquinas High star Jake Rudock behind Matthew Stafford, who is entering the last year of his contract, ESPN’s Adam Schefter said.
“He’s a guy I owe a lot to, just in terms of why I’m in the position I’m in right now,’’ Kaaya said of Golden. “I just love that guy to death.’’
Said ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay: “He has more potential than what we saw at Miami. Part of it, not all of it, is that this guy took an absolute beating. He did not have pass protection as a quarterback. I gave him a lot of credit...’’
The news had to be a massive relief for the 6-4, 214-pound Kaaya, 21, who was back with family and friends in Los Angeles as pick after pick after pick got announced without his name being called. Though some draft analysts had him going as high as the third round, most said he should have stayed for his senior year and wouldn’t be picked until the fifth or six rounds. He adamantly defended his decision to leave early, saying recently that he knew he was ready for the next step of his career and that “tomorrow is never guaranteed.’’
A large image of Kaaya was repeatedly shown on the ESPN broadcast, among a few others, as a prominent-player-still-not-drafted reminder.
“Every draft, there’s a group of players who fall under the ‘should have stayed one more year’ label, posted ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg on Twitter. “I never thought Brad Kaaya would be one.’’
Now that Kaaya has moved on, he wants whoever takes his place to excel even more.
“I’m kind of hoping someone else breaks the record now,’’ he told the Miami Herald recently. “My thing is I just want to see the U go on to do even bigger and better things for the next few years.’’
On UM’s defense, Jenkins, the father of a 1-year-old son, Ace, grew up in St. Petersburg. He’s a 6-1, 220-pound physically dominating safety who led UM with nine career interceptions and overcame a herniated disc before the 2014 season.
When asked by the Miami Herald before the draft what his best attributes are, Jenkins said this: “I’ve got leadership qualities, I’m physically imposing, aggressive, a playmaker and smart.’’
Fellow defensive back Elder, a 2016 first-team All-ACC selection among coaches, tied for third on the team with 76 tackles last season and led the Hurricanes in pass breakups for the second consecutive year. He had 4.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, one interception, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
“I’m going to give everything I’ve got,’’ Elder said from his family’s home in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, during a teleconference. “I’m a physical player. I love to tackle.’’
The Canes’ two graduate transfers who played only one season for Miami – Colbert and Williams – were thrilled to be drafted.
Before he was taken in the final round by the 49ers, Colbert sent out a defiant tweet. “Every team that passes on me will regret it….mark my words,’’ he posted a couple of hours before he was chosen. Then, this: “I just wanna take a moment to thank GOD and the @49ers for blessing me with such a great opportunity. I won’t let y’all down.’’
After the draft, the following former Canes will head to teams as undrafted free agents: Safety Jamal Carter (Denver Broncos), linebacker Jermaine Grace (Atlanta Falcons), punter Justin Vogel (Green Bay Packers), receiver Malcolm Lewis (Miami Dolphins) and tight end Stan Dobard (Seattle Seahawks).