NFL Draft: Lofton Says Selection "Surreal"

Former Oklahoma All-American Curtis Lofton thought he was prepared for the 2008 NFL Draft. He knew his name would be called and he had an idea of when it would happen. He was prepared for everything, then his phone rang...

Curtis Lofton had been preparing for years to hear the words, but they still hit him like a ton of bricks.

"We've been keeping an eye on you and feel like picking you up before someone else does."

Those words came from Atlanta Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff early last Saturday evening.

The Falcons were about to make Lofton, an All-American linebacker from the University of Oklahoma, the 37th overall pick (sixth pick of the second round) of the 2008 NFL Draft.

It's a day he was expecting. One he'd been preparing for. One he no doubt had rehearsed.

He was prepared to play it smooth. Or so he thought.

"A whole bunch of emotions came over me," Lofton said. "My chest got really heavy and I felt like I was going to quit breathing.

"And I really couldn't talk."

That's what it's like to achieve an ultimate dream, which in Lofton's case is having your name called in the NFL Draft.

Lofton was the first of four Sooners to have their names called over the two-day, seven-round draft.

Wide receiver Malcolm Kelly was taken 51st overall (second round) by the Washington Redskins. Defensive back Reggie Smith was taken 75th overall (third round) by the San Francisco 49ers. Running back Allen Patrick had his named called at No. 240 (seventh round) by the Baltimore Ravens.

Lofton, Kelly and Smith all chose to forego their senior seasons at Oklahoma and each was subjected to varying degrees of criticism for their choices. None of that mattered to the Kingfisher, Okla., native.

"I knew it was the right decision regardless of where I went because I just felt it was my time," Lofton said.

Lofton had been projected to be drafted anywhere from 15th to 40th overall, but it was widely felt that he was a late-first or early-second round pick.

The Falcons were just one of several teams showing interest. Others included Miami, St. Louis, Detroit and San Francisco.

For Lofton, although the Falcons are in serious rebuilding mold, Atlanta is a great fit.

"I didn't care where I went, but this is probably the best fit for me," Lofton said. "They run a defense very similar to what we did at OU."

Plus, the Falcons need someone to fill the middle linebacker spot.

"They said nothing will be given to me, but the middle is mine for the taking," he said. "They said if I come in and work hard, I'll be given a chance to play early."

When given the chance, Lofton has done nothing but produce in the past.

He tallied over 320 tackles in his junior and senior seasons at Kingfisher as his team won the 2003 Class 3A state title and was a 2004 state semifinalists.

That success carried over to the University of Oklahoma when in 2007 Lofton produced one of the greatest seasons ever by a Sooner linebacker.

He amassed 157 tackles, the sixth-best in school history, and had a school-record nine games with double-digit tackles. He had 10.5 tackles for losses, two sacks, three interceptions, four forced fumbles and two touchdowns.

"Curtis was a catalyst for our defense and a part of the first back-to-back championships in Big 12 history," said Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops. "He has outstanding instincts and an explosiveness that allows him to close quickly."

For his efforts, Lofton was named Associated Press Big XII Defensive Player of the Year and was a consensus All-American.

After the season, Lofton chose to enter the draft, which ultimately led to Saturday's phone call.

"We are excited for Curtis and his family and look forward to following his progress on the professional level," Stoops said.

Lofton took the call amongst family and friends at a draft watch party in Edmond.

"It's still surreal to me," he said on Monday. "It hasn't really set in yet that I was drafted. It still blows my mind."

Although they weren't drafted, several other Sooners have signed free agent contracts.

Safety D.J. Wolfe will join Lofton as he signed a free agent contract with Atlanta.

Cornerback Marcus Walker joins buddy Adrian Peterson after signing with Minnesota.

Linebacker Lewis Baker and tight end Joe Jon Finley will join Smith at San Francisco and kicker Garrett Hartley signed with Denver.

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