KeiVarae Russell knew he belonged among the NFL draft picks in the first two days.
Friday night, the Kansas City Chiefs chose Russell with the 11th pick in the third round and the 74th overall.
Russell became the highest Notre Dame cornerback draft pick since the Philadelphia Eagles chose Bobby Taylor with the 50th overall pick in 1995.
Russell completed his Notre Dame career with five interceptions, including two of the most significant defensive plays of the 2015 season. His interceptions against USC and Temple helped complete victories over the Trojans (41-31) and Owls (24-20).
Russell’s selection marks the fourth time in the last five NFL drafts that Notre Dame has had a defensive back selected. Bennett Jackson (2014), Jamoris Slaughter and Zeke Motta (2013), and Harrison Smith and Robert Blanton (2012) were drafted in recent years.
Russell emerged as one of the top-rated cornerbacks coming out of his sophomore season (2013) when he helped limit 6-foot-6 Rutgers wide receiver Brandon Coleman to just two receptions in the Pinstripe Bowl.
His career was interrupted, however, in 2014 when he and four other Irish players were suspended for the entire season for “academic dishonesty.” Russell finished the 2015 season with a career-high 60 tackles despite missing the final two games with a broken leg.
Amidst rehab, Russell was not able to participate in testing at the February NFL combine in Indianapolis. But Russell responded at Notre Dame’s March 31 Pro Day when he ran a 4.43 40-yard dash while measuring a 38 ½-inch vertical jump and an 11’2” broad jump.
There’s been speculation that Russell could convert to safety. His ability to support the run would favor him in that move. Russell finished sixth on the team in tackles in ’15 with 60, despite missing two games.
The 5-foot-11, 192-pounder from Everett, Wash., is the first Notre Dame player picked by the Chiefs since offensive tackle Jordan Black in the fifth round in 2003.