State Colleges

Jacksonville Jaguars draft FIU star safety Johnathan Cyprien

Four years ago, Johnathan Cyprien went to FIU just wanting a degree. Four months ago, Cyprien would have been happy just to be taken anywhere in the NFL Draft.

So waiting until the second day of the draft to be taken didn’t bother Cyprien. Especially when he got taken with the first pick in the second round by Jacksonville, No.33 overall, a team just five hours from his North Miami Beach home.

“[Thursday night] was really mellow,” Cyprien said Friday. “My agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told me we’re expected to go in the second round, so we’ll watch the first round because there’s a chance. I watched it. I’m happy for everybody who went in the first round. I’m happy for myself to be going [Friday].”

After getting off the line with ESPN, Cyprien bounced and let out a joyful noise before grabbing his mother, Roselaure, in a giant hug first, then a hug for his father, Kenel.

Roselaure Cyprien was so excited, she stopped when talking about her son and said, “There’s a lot of good things about Johnathan I can’t remember right now.

“He always has been the greatest kid I ever had. Johnathan was always a special kid, ever since I was carrying him, he was different. Even the first day he was born, I knew he would be shining through.”

Cyprien rocketed up the draft boards over the past three months in what Rosenhaus called “the greatest draft rise that I’ve seen of any of my clients in my 25-year career” to be the first player selected in this draft from Miami-Dade or Broward counties (North Miami Beach High) and the first player from the University of Miami, FIU or FAU.

“Those things don’t mean anything right now,” he said. “I’m happy I’ve been chosen and playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars. I thank God for it because without Him I wouldn’t be able to do this. I’m ready to show all the abilities God blessed me with. I’m ready to show Jacksonville, and I can’t wait to get there.”

Thursday night’s first round saw three safeties taken, Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro (New Orleans, No. 15 overall), Florida’s Matt Elam (Baltimore, No. 32 overall) and LSU’s Eric Reid (San Francisco jumping up to No. 18 overall).

Reid going ahead of Cyprien was a surprise to draft experts. Most mock drafts had Vaccaro, Elam and Cyprien, usually in that order, but definitely a trio set apart in a draft that is thick with safety talent.

Cyprien also is the earliest pick of the five players ever drafted from FIU, where he’s the career leader in tackles.

Last year, Indianapolis drafted wide receiver T.Y. Hilton at the end of the third round.

The highest drafted player in FIU history will wind up facing the greatest player in FIU history twice a season as AFC South rivals.

“I have talked to his dad, and he wished me luck,” Cyprien said of Hilton. “I’ll see him two times each year. It’s going to be great.”

Hilton and Cyprien were the faces of the FIU program in 2011 and 2012, respectively, the players former FIU coach Mario Cristobal always approved for interviews.

Both are extremely polite, deeply religious and confident but in an understated way (off the field) compared with the stereotypical South Florida brashness. Neither player has had any on-field or off-field issues.

“When I first catalogued teams [in December], the initial sense that I got was that most people had him in the middle of the draft,” Rosenhaus said. “And Johnathan and I set a goal for him to be drafted in the second round.”

It’s no surprise that Cyprien’s stock rose after the NFL Scouting Combine, though he did only the vertical jump and defensive back drills.

Much of the real opinion-swaying at the Combine comes in the individual team interviews.

Interestingly, Cyprien said he never worked out for Jacksonville, but interviewed with the Jaguars at the Senior Bowl, the Combine and visited them.

“Jacksonville’s a great place,” he said. “I had a great visit there. The coaches are ready to win. And I’m ready to win, too.”

Roselaure Cyprien said: “Johnathan’s always a confident child. It’s his hard work, God’s hard work and my hard work. God is good. I’m so happy for him. I can’t wait to see him play.”

Related stories from Miami Herald