Two UConn football players were selected Sunday in the later rounds of the NFL Draft, the first time since 2005 that the Huskies saw multiple players picked in the same draft
Two UConn football players were selected Sunday in the later rounds of the NFL Draft, the first time since 2005 that the Huskies saw multiple players picked in the same draft.
Defensive back and kick returner Tyvon Branch was the first Husky selected, going to the Oakland Raiders with the first choice in the fourth round (100th overall).
He was joined hours later by offensive lineman Donald Thomas, who went in the sixth round as the 195th pick, going to the Miami Dolphins.
“I am excited to see this happen for Tyvon and Donald,” UConn coach Randy Edsall said in a statement released by the school. “I can guarantee that neither of them were in anyone’s top 195 coming out of high school. ... It is a real feather in our cap as a program and shows that we can develop our people well once they get there.”
Branch is the highest draft pick for UConn since Alfred Fincher was drafted in the third round, 82nd overall, by New Orleans in 2005.
That draft also was the last to feature two UConn players selected: Fincher and Dan Orlovsky, taken in the fifth round, 145th overall, by Detroit.
Branch, a 6-foot, 205-pound native of Cicero, N.Y., impressed scouts with his 40-yard dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. His 4.31-second mark was tops among defensive backs.
A woman who answered Branch’s cell phone Sunday said he would not speak to the media.
Oakland moved up four picks to grab Branch, swapping picks with Dallas.
“It’s great for Tyvon and great for our program,” Edsall said. “It’s also exciting to see the Raiders trade up to draft him because it shows that they really want Tyvon. It’s is exciting to see him selected by a franchise with such a great history and tradition, and I’m sure he’ll do well with the Raiders.”
As a Husky, Branch played in 48 games, starting 31 of those in the secondary and as a kick returner. He averaged 26.5 yards per kickoff return and finished his career with 230 tackles.
He started 13 games as a senior, 12 at cornerback and one at safety. Branch was named the team’s special teams MVP and received second-team All-Big East honors.
Thomas, who never played high school football, went from walk-on to starter. In his senior season, he started all 13 games on the line. He also played in the Hula Bowl and East-West Shrine Game.
He recorded the fastest 10-yard split (1.72 seconds) and third-fastest 20-yard split (2.89) for offensive linemen at the league combine.
“Donald will fit in well there,” Edsall said of Thomas heading to Miami. “He is one of those tough, hard-nosed guys that (Dolphins executive vice president of football operations Bill) Parcells looks for.”
Thomas told the Miami media Sunday that he had some brief conversations with the Dolphins before the draft.
“It’s unreal. I can’t even put it into words,” he said of being drafted. “I can’t believe that this is happening.”
Two other UConn players who declared for the draft, inside linebacker Danny Lansanah and wide receiver Larry Taylor, were not drafted and are able to be signed by any NFL club.
Reach Norwich Bulletin writer Sean Smyth at 425-4254 or email@example.com