April 27, 2013
STORRS, Conn. - The University of Connecticut football team had a program-high five players selcted in the 2013 NFL Draft, which ran from Thursday-Saturday at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The previous high for UConn was four draft picks, which came in the 2009 and '11 drafts. UConn has now had 19 players drafted since 2007.
The UConn draft rush started on Friday as three players taken in the first eight picks of the third round of the NFL Draft on Friday night. Cornerback Dwayne Gratz (Piscataway, N.J.) was the first Husky taken as he was the third pick (64th overall) and was selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The picks then came fast and furious for the Huskies as linebacker Sio Moore (Apex, N.C.) was two selections later as the 68th overall pick and is now a member of the Oakland Raiders. Cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson (Edinboro, Pa.) rounded out the UConn picks as the eighth pick of the third round (70th overall) to the Tennessee Titans.
On Saturday, defensive end Trevardo Williams (Bridgeport, Conn.) was taken in the fourth round by the Houston Texans. Williams was the 124th pick overall and the 27th pick of the fourth round. The fifth UConn player taken was tight end Ryan Griffin (Londonderry, N.H.), when he was selected as the 33rd pick (201st overall) of the seventh round -- also by the Texans.
UConn's three draft picks in the first three rounds is the highest since four Huskies went in the first two rounds in 2009. The only schools that had more than three players picked in the first three rounds of the draft were Alabama, LSU, North Carolina, Florida State, Georgia and Florida. Texas A&M, Oregon, West Virginia and Tennessee also had three selections.
Following the completion of the draft, wide receiver/retuner Nick Williams (East Windsor, N.J.) signed a free agent contract with the Wahington Redkins whie wide receiver Michael Smith (Houston, Texas) signed with his hometown Houston Texans.
Gratz and Wreh-Wilson combined to start 80 games at cornerback over the last four year at Connecticut and were both honored as All-BIG EAST Second Team members following this past season. At 6-foot-0, Gratz led the UConn defense with three interceptions as a senior, including a 37-yard pick returned for a touchdown. For his career, he totaled eight interceptions for 152 return yards, including a 46-yard pick-six against Oklahoma in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl. Wreh-Wilson grabbed eight career interceptions, totaling 171 returns yards and ran two back for scores in 2010.
Moore (6-foot-2, 229 lbs.) started each of the last three seasons at outside linebacker. He was named to the All-BIG EAST First Team in December. Moore led the squad with 15.5 tackles for loss, ranking among the top four in the league.
Trevardo Williams led the Huskies with 11.5 sacks and led the league at 0.96 per game and was a first team All-BIG EAST pick. He is the UConn career leader in sacks as well. Williams was third on the Huskies with 13.5 tackles for a loss in 2012 -- ranking among the top four in the top four in the league.
Following his senior year, Griffin played in Raycom College Football All-Star Classic in Montgomery, Ala. Griffin, who earned his second-straight second team honor from the BIG EAST and was on the Mackey Award Watch List to start the year, was honored as the Huskies' Offensive Player of the Year in 2012. Griffin assaulted the UConn record book for receptions by a tight end throughout his career and after catching 29 passes; six for touchdowns and 484 yards in 2012, his 10 career TDs and 116 receptions are both second all-time by a tight end.
The first four drafted Huskies participated in the NFL Combine, while Grffin was not selected. Moore played in both the Senior Bowl and the East-West Shrine Game while Gratz and Wreh-Williams also played in the Senior Bowl.
Nick Wililams played in the second annual Casino Del Sol All-Star Game. A second team All-BIG EAST selection, Williams proved to be a valuable weapon in the UConn pass, run and return games. He caught 30 passes for 334 yards and carried the ball 10 times for 40 yards and a touchdown. In the return game, Williams averaged 20.4 yards per kick return and 12.0 yards per punt return. He ran back punts for scores of 58 yards in a win at Maryland (Sept. 15) and 80 yards in a win over Pittsburgh (Nov. 9).
Nikc Williams was twice named the BIG EAST Special Teams Player of the Week. He finished his career as the Huskies’ all-time leader in kick-off return yards with 2,045 and ranks second in yards per return at 25.9. Williams is the only UConn player with at least two kick-off returns for touchdowns and two punt returns for touchdowns in a career.
Smith played in the annual Texas vs. The Nation at Eagle Stadium in Allen, Texas. Smith played in all 12 games and made three starts at wide receiver. He was third on the team with 31 receptions and second with 407 yards, averaging 13.1 yards per reception. In his return to the field,
Dwayne Gratz, Jacksonville Jaguars Cornerback
Description of waiting to be drafted: "I was very nervous not knowing where I could end up. We haven't played since December 1, so I've just wanted to get back on the field. It was a long process and I was just waiting for it to be over with."
On prospect of going to Jacksonville: "[Jacksonville] came to [UConn] to work me out and I knew that they really believed in my abilities to grow as a player and a person. I'm looking forward to going out there and playing again."
On where he fits as a NFL cornerback: "Right now, [Jacksonville] needs help at the cornerback position, so if they're looking for someone to come in and compete as a starter, I consider myself becoming a starter soon. I'm going to compete and continue what I've been doing, which is working hard. I think I'll be in a good position and everything will work out."
What it was like to see Sio Moore and Blidi Wreh-Wilson drafted soon after: "It was very exciting. We put in a lot of work playing for UConn for five years. We all wanted to see each other go and it didn't matter who went first or last."
Sio Moore, Oakland Raiders Linebackers
Thoughts of being a third round pick: "You never know what's going to happen in these situations. People say a lot of things and you can get your hopes up, but for me it's what I'm used to. I always have a chip on my shoulder. The whole process has reinforced the entire thing. I'm glad to be a part of [the Oakland Raiders]."
Reaction to Gratz getting drafted: "I was happy, man. That's like my brother right there. It was just a blessing for him to pave the way for his future. There's nothing I can do, but feel happy for Dwayne and I'm glad he got the opportunity."
On finding out he was being taken by the Raiders: "I just saw that it was a California area code and knew that they had a couple of picks. The GM, Reggie McKenzie, asked if I wanted to be a Raider and I said, `you're dog-gone right'."
On feeling anxious as the draft went on: "After New York and Chicago had gone in the second round because I had met with Chicago the day before the draft and I thought that was going to be a sure thing. It didn't happen and I'm just glad that the right organization picked me."
Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Tennessee Titans
Cornerback On the waiting process: "Minutes go by long...I'm not going to lie. My agent gave me a range [where I would be drafted] and I went in the range that they gave me, so I knew it was coming my way. Once I saw seven [Dwayne] and three [Sio] go, I knew seven [Blidi] was coming soon."
On Tennessee's level of interest: "They had told me that they were disappointed that I didn't work out for them. I thought that the pro day was the best way for me to show what I can do. At the end of the day they picked me and I'm just glad that they did."
On being close with Dwayne Gratz and Sio Moore: "We came in and we all were impact freshmen. Our redshirt-freshmen year, Sio had a heck of a year, Dwayne had a good year and I had a pretty good year. It was crazy that we all went so close in the draft. We all went third round and we all went to good teams."
Trevardo Williams, Houston Texans Linebacker
On three teammates drafted in the third round: “I knew I was going to be a later draft pick and I wasn’t too surprised [when my teammates were picked]. I was actually excited and happy for my teammates to be drafted in the third round because they worked hard and all deserved it. I knew my named would eventually be called.”
On the interest level from Houston prior to the draft: “At the combine I met with the Houston Texans and I wasn’t as informed about them because I didn’t have any workouts or official meetings with them, but I had a phone call here or there.”
His position outlook with the Texans: “I’m not sure what they have in store for me, but whatever they have I’m willing to do anything.”
On becoming division rivals with Dwayne Gratz and Blidi Wreh-Wilson: “We’ve always been rivals and we’re athletes so the competitiveness we have between each other has been us rivals, but at the same time we’ll always be teammates at heart.”
Ryan Griffin, Houston Texas Tight End
Path from Pro Day to the Draft: “From pro day to this point, I took some trips out to some teams. Off the field [I was] showing what I’m about, breaking down film and just being around the coaches and let them know what kind of a character guy I am and I think that helped my case. I can credit that to being a UConn Husky. I’m just so happy to be in this position.”
On his trip to Houston: “I took a trip out to Kansas City, Buffalo, Green Bay and Houston. The trip [to Houston] went really well and it felt like the right fit for me. Everything just kind of clicked. That was the trip where I felt most at home. When I saw that they called me, right before they were picking, I kind of had a good feeling about it.”
On remaining teammates with Trevardo Williams: “We’re going to be going up against each other. I’m excited for him. He’s a great player and an even better person. I’m happy to show [the Texans] what being a Husky is all about.”