May 10, 2014
NEW YORK - Two former UConn Football standouts, Shamar Stephen and Yawin Smallwood, were taken in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft on Saturday at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Stephen was selected by the Minnesota Vikings as 220th overall selection, while Smallwood was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons with the 253rd pick.
The pair became the 20th and 21st NFL Draft picks for the Huskies since 2007, following a school-record five selections last year.
Stephen, a 2013 team captain who started all 12 games at defensive tackle, was named to the All-Conference Second Team after finishing third on the team with 60 tackles and leading the Huskies with 10 tackles-for-loss. His senior campaign was headlined by an eight tackle game against conference rival USF on Oct. 12. He was a participant in the 2014 Senior Bowl following the season.
Smallwood was one of the program's most productive players last season, leading the team with 118 tackles en route to being named an All-Conference First Team member. He recorded double-digit tackles in six of the Huskies' 12 games and was a finalist for the Butkus Award. The linebacker notched 13 tackles, 2.0 TFL, a sack and a forced fumble vs. No. 14 Michigan on Sept. 21, earning CBSSports.com Defensive Player Of The Week honors. He received the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Week nod after notching eight tackles, 2.0 TFL, a sack and a game-sealing 59-yard interception return for a touchdown at Temple on Nov. 23.
DT Shamar Stephen | Minnesota Vikings | Overall Pick No. 220
On what it was like waiting for the phone call:
"It was definitely a long wait. I was anxious, just trying to hope I got picked up. I was happy about it and want to thank the Minnesota Vikings for picking me up."
On if he was worried about where he was drafted:
"Honestly, it was just a long wait. I just want to come in and prove I can play and be a factor for them next year. I'm not worried about what round I'm going to be drafted. I just want to make the team and show people that I can play.
On meeting with the Vikings before the draft:
It was in April. It was a great meeting. They definitely showed me a lot of love. They showed me the scheme that they did. Coach Zimmer is a great head coach. They showed me what they were all about and I was definitely impressed with them."
On what it means to be drafted:
"It means everything to me and my family. It's a great opportunity for me. I'm just trying to prove to everyone out here I can play and be a factor for this team."
On what happened the moment he was drafted:
"Everybody was excited, happy and proud for me. I have to thank my friends and family for all the support. It was a great moment for me."
On his mentality going into NFL activities:
"I think the most important thing is making it to an organization to show that I can play. I didn't want to focus on where I was getting drafted. Everyone wants to be drafted as high as they can be but I think the biggest thing is to focus on what you can do when you get there."
On the Vikings drafting him:
"It was just a great, great feeling when I got that call. They definitely liked what I've done throughout my college career and see me able to play. They want me to be able to come in and work."
LB Yawin Smallwood | Atlanta Falcons | Overall Pick No. 253
On how the process played out in the seventh round:
“I started getting some calls from teams talking about free agency and things like that. I was a little disappointed and then I got that call from Atlanta and it felt great. It was a great moment. I’ve worked hard all my life. It’s just overwhelming and I’m happy to be an Atlanta Falcon now.”
On if he feels disappointed by where he was drafted:
“Like I said, I think I’m the best linebacker in this class. I had 100-plus tackles every year and didn’t have any issues off the field, as a captain. I did everything the right way. But everything happens for a reason and I’m blessed that Atlanta gave me this opportunity. “
On what he knows about the Falcons:
“Their linebackers coach came to UConn and worked me out. He said he’s been watching me for many years. I felt like there was interest from them.”
On earning a spot on an NFL roster:
“I’m not really worried about competition. I feel like I’m a good football player and I’m going to do what I’ve always done which is work hard and make plays. I think you have seen at UConn that I have produced every single year and gotten better every year.”
On having the chance to play with former UConn player Robert McClain:
"It’s great. He’s another UConn guy so we have that little connection. I’m going to try and learn as much about the defense as I can from a guy like that and I’m ready to go to work now."
On if he regrets participating in the NFL Combine:
“I still wanted to go out there and show my speed but things just didn’t go my way. They had all the film they needed to see and felt like they needed a different player and went that route.”