I just want to welcome everybody and thank you for coming. It's been a great weekend, needless to say. It was a very exciting weekend for everybody involved with our program. At last count, I think we have 12 players that have signed up and will be in camps as of this weekend or next. I think there's a chance for maybe another one or two after that.
This is two years and a row that we've had five players drafted. I think over the last three years now, that puts us tied for second for draft picks in the Big Ten. That's certainly indicative of the growth that our team has been going through and a great reflection first and foremost on our players. Secondly, our coaching staff has done a great job of developing and working with the players over the years.
I don't want to leave out Chris Doyle. Obviously, Chris spends a lot of time with our guys from the day they walk into the door. I wanted to make special note of what he does with them after the season ends. It really probably is significant and very unusual the time that he dedicates. These guys can tell you better than I the time that he spends with them on a daily basis after our season has concluded, not only in terms of the physical workouts, but he also helps to prepare the guys mentally also for the kind of questions that they're going to be facing from NFL personnel. When we talk about Robert Gallery and the job that he did in NY this weekend, and the job that all the guys did at the pro testing days and the combines, all of those things add up to being successful. Chris has done a great job of going above and beyond with our guys.
It's definitely been a team effort. But again, all of the credit, it all starts with our players. Those are the guys that are putting the energy out and showing the commitment that's necessary.
So, I'm just thrilled to death for them and certainly happy. I want to wish all of them the best as they pursue their dream. It's going to be fun to watch them.
Coach, did you have sort of a reunion with some of your old NFL friends in NY?
Just a little bit. Most of those people are back in their offices doing the work. I did see a few people during the course of the weekend. Gil Brandt, it seems like he's everywhere. It was great to see him and some of the other people.
It was just a fantastic time for us. We weren't working. We were just enjoying. That was a great weekend to enjoy. And then certainly the Raiders picking Robert second made it a great weekend for us. He just did a fantastic job representing our program, our university and our entire state. He's just a class act; great family. It was very, very kind of them to include us in the weekend.
That helps recruiting, too, doesn't it?
I imagine we got some good press time there. I've been told that the coverage was excellent by ESPN, although the Manning trade saga and all of that probably cut into a little bit of it.
But no question about it, the exposure that he got to be drafted second in the overall NFL Draft in this day and age is really a significant thing and very difficult to do. So, again, it speaks volumes of the job Robert has done since he's been here.
Robert and a lot of these other guys weren't really highly recruited preps yet they've gone on the NFL. That says a lot about this program and this coaching staff.
Well, it goes back to signing day. I know you have to take notice of what the experts, so-called experts, say. But it's a little bit like being here in the '80s. Typically our linemen got overlooked in all-Big Ten honors, and the Michigan guys would (make all-conference). I said, "Well ,wait until that draft. That's when they really pick the all-Big Ten teams.
It's certainly noteworthy that so many of our kids that have come in maybe under the radar screen a little bit. But the most important thing is that they believed in themselves. They weren't afraid to work and be committed the way that you have to be committed if you're really goign to be good at anything worthwhile. That's the story of each and every guy on this list. They've all paid the price. They've worked extremely hard. As a result of their efforts and the way that they've come together as a team, we've been able to have some team success.
As I've said many times, we've enjoyed some great senior classes. This class is right there with the rest of them.
It's got to be approaching 30 the draftees and the free agent signings the last three years. What does that say about the program? Talk a little bit more about the program. It's obviously the ultimate compliment to this program.
It really is, and it's kind of like our progress as a football team. I've always made sure that I give credit to our '99 group and the 2000 seniors probably as much as anybody. Boy, the way that they stayed the course and got us over the hump, and the work that those guys did in pro camps really helped us.
You think about a guy like LeVar Woods who goes down there unheralded to the Cardinals. He really impressed them every day that he went out on the field. The feedback that we got, and it's been true of all of our guys, is when they've had the chance to go to camps for the most part they've taken advantage of that. Enough guys have seen our guys practice now. At least they know if they bring one of our guys to camp they're going to get somebody who's going to work hard and be dedicated and give their absolute best trying to make the football team. That's a good thing to know if you're at that end of the spectrum as an NFL person knowing that you're going to get a good person into your camp.
It all goes together, and that has certainly helped these guys. These guys have benefitted from the work that the guys ahead of them have done. It's a very positive thing.
Can you talk about some of the second-day guys?
Jared and Erik and you've got a nice list of guys that signed as free agents. You probably heard the guys talking during the draft on just how valuable those draft picks are. If you can't draft a guy, it's tough to fight for him in the free agent market.
I've told our guys that in some ways you might be better off not getting drafted because you can pick your spots. But the great thing is that if you can make it to a camp, once you get in there you have the same opportunity as any other player on the roster other than mayb the first rounders. They usually get a mulligan. Gallery will probably need that. But other than the first-rounders, everybody's got to prove their worht everyday. It's a land of opportunity.
It's not unlike guys coming here as walk-ons. If they come in here and do the job, they play for us. We've had a lot of guys fall in that category. It's an exciting time for all of these guys. They can all go to camp knowing that they're going to have a great opportunity. You think of a guy like Bart Starr. I think he was a 15th-round draft choice. That would make him a low priority free agent in this day and age. There are a lot of great stories that way.