Three More Heels Crash the NFL Party

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina added three more players to its long list of Tar Heels in the professional ranks, as wide receiver Brandon Tate, offensive tackle Garrett Reynolds and wide receiver Brooks Foster were taken on day two of the 2009 NFL Draft on Sunday.

Tate, a senior from Burlington, N.C., had the most question marks surrounding him of any Tar Heel heading into the draft. He worked to not only rehab his right knee after tearing the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in October, but also his image after reportedly testing positive for marijuana at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in February.

Despite speculation that Tate might drop to the fourth or fifth round, New England swooped in and selected the human highlight reel with the 83rd overall pick (third round).

When New England head coach Bill Belichick called Tate shortly before the Patriots made their selection official, the senior withheld the news from his family at his home in Burlington, N.C. so that "they could enjoy the moment."

"I couldn't even say anything for a long time," Tate told Inside Carolina on Sunday night. "I was just sitting there amazed. I still can't believe that I'm a New England Patriot."

Tate finished his career as the NCAA's career leader in combined kick return yardage, and totaled 16 catches for 376 yards and three touchdowns in 2008. The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder indicated that his right knee is "fine," although he will still be in the rehab stage when he leaves for Foxboro, Mass. on Thursday.

"Whatever they want me to do, I'll do it," Tate said. "They took a chance on me, so I'm definitely going to go up there and work hard."

As for the reported failed drug test, Tate simply said, "Whatever happened is in the past. I'm moving forward from all of that, and I'm just glad to be a New England Patriot."

Reynolds – a 2008 second-team All-ACC member – was selected by the Atlanta Falcons with 156th overall pick in the fifth round. The 6-foot-7, 295-pounder started 32 games during his career as a Tar Heel, with all but one occurring from his right tackle position (right guard in ‘06).

"I was a little surprised, because I did not have an individual workout with them, but I remember they liked me at the combine," Reynolds said in a press release. "I was just laying on the floor [at home in Tennessee] stretching out, nodding off a little because I had been watching the draft for so long. All of a sudden my cell phone vibrated and I ran in the kitchen to talk to the general manager. While I was on the phone, I heard my family yelling and screaming in the other room when it came on TV.

"I'm pumped. I'm coming back to Chapel Hill for a presentation and paper that are due this week and then I'll be heading to mini-camp."

Foster became the third Tar Heel picked on Sunday when the St. Louis Rams called his name with the 160th overall choice (fifth round). The Boiling Springs, S.C., native had 97 catches for 1,237 yards and six touchdowns during his Carolina career.

"What's going to help Brooks in the grand scheme of things is the simple fact that he's a gunner and a jammer on special teams," UNC wide receivers coach Charlie Williams said. "If you're not the No. 1 or No. 2 at the wide receiver position, you've got to do something on special teams, and I think that's going to help him. His speed is exceptional."

Tate, Reynolds and Foster join first-day selections Hakeem Nicks (wide receiver – 29th overall) and Richard Quinn (tight end – 64th overall) as Tar Heels taken in the 2009 NFL Draft, tying Maryland for the most players selected in the ACC. North Carolina's five draftees is the most since six Tar Heels were chosen in 2002.

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