Tamme first of four Cats taken in draft; Giants pick Woodson in sixth round

Twenty-two hours and 126 picks.

That’s how long it took before senior tight end Jacob Tamme heard his name called as a fourth-round selection by the Indianapolis Colts during the second day of the NFL draft. In a crop of talented draft-eligible former UK players — including quarterback Andre Woodson, wide receiver Keenan Burton and linebacker Wesley Woodyard — it was Tamme who was the first to be taken in the draft with the 127th pick.

“I didn’t expect to be the first one” Tamme said. “I was surprised. I know the type of senior class we had here (at UK). I was just hoping everyone received a good fit.”

Though many thought this class would make noise in the first day of the draft, it was all silence until Tamme’s selection. Burton was selected immediately after Tamme, taken by the Rams in the fourth round as the 128th overall selection, and heralded quarterback Andre Woodson — a onetime Heisman Trophy candidate and first-round projection in the fall — fell all the way to the sixth round, the 198th pick, to the Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

Woodson will join former UK quarterback Jared Lorenzen, who recently signed a one-year contract with the Giants. Wide receiver Steve Johnson slid to the seventh round, where Buffalo selected him with the 224th overall pick.

With record-setting years the past two seasons, expectations were high for UK to have its best draft class in years. But with zero draftees on the first day (made up by the draft’s first two rounds) and no Cat going before the fourth round, disappointment set in for the former UK players.

“There’s a lot of different factors of why we slid,” Tamme said. “But I don’t think it’s right. Teams are missing out on some great players. They are getting a steal with Andre and Wesley.”

Woodyard, running back Rafael Little and center Eric Scott went undrafted. The slide of the Cats’ seniors in the draft reflects on the lack of credit that has been given to the UK program, Burton said.

“No one outside the state respects us as a school,” Burton said. “They think it’s a fluke, it’s luck. But when it comes time for the UK players, they will show up on Sundays.”

Burton thinks that lack of respect defines his situation perfectly. The Louisville native said he could have gone anywhere from the second round to the fourth, where he was actually selected, but felt many teams were hesitant to pick him — part of it due to the injuries he has battled during his college career.

“The injuries scared some teams off,” Burton said. “Teams were scared to take a chance. I could have gone anywhere from the second round to where I went.”

While the former UK players suffered through the nerves of the two-day draft process, there were some good moments.

Tamme’s immediate surprise at being the first Cat selected quickly turned into excitement as he realized he would be receiving passes from former NFL MVP Peyton Manning and a Colts team two years removed from being Super Bowl champions.

“I couldn’t be more excited,” Tamme said. “Originally I’ve been a fan of the Colts for the last few years, and it’ll be a good fit personality-wise. They care about winning.”

While most teams reach out to contact a player before they draft him, Burton said he never heard from the Rams before being selected yesterday.

“I never talked to them,” Burton said. “Fortunately, I’m in the situation I’m in. I think St. Louis is a great fit.”

In the second round, the Rams selected the first wide receiver of the draft, Donnie Avery from Houston, before grabbing Burton. Partnered with quarterback Marc Bulger, Burton feels good about his chances at earning playing time with the Rams.

“There’s no real wide receiver there right now,” Burton said. “It’s looking bright for me and Avery.”

In the end, four former Cats were drafted by the time the last pick was selected — welcome news after UK had zero selections in the last two years. Even though the highest pick came in the fourth round, Tamme hopes this group of seniors — the same class that helped put UK football back on the map — has started a tradition that will see UK players drafted to the NFL for years to come.

“I definitely think we can start a tradition,” Tamme said. “You look at Miami, Florida State and Ohio State and how those schools are draft-day players. I think at Kentucky, we’re moving in that direction. There’s nowhere but up from here.”