Dreams Fulfilled

Ole Miss history was indeed made Saturday, as graduated Rebels Michael Oher and Peria Jerry were both selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Read about it inside.

Out of 264 former Rebels who have entered the professional ranks in school history, including 22 Pro Bowl selections, no two have gone in the first round of the National Football League Draft in the same year.

That changed Saturday, as Michael Oher and Peria Jerry were selected among the top 24 picks Saturday.

Oher, who was initially considered a consensus Top Ten pick, was taken with the 23rd overall pick by the Baltimore Ravens. Jerry, considered a mid-to-late first round selection, was chosen No. 24 by the Atlanta Falcons.

Their selections give the Rebels 19 NFL/AFL first round picks in their history and five in the last six years, most recently Patrick Willis with the No. 11 selection of San Francisco in 2007.

Ole Miss joins only Georgia and Southern Cal with two draftees in the first 24 picks.

"It's a good day for Ole Miss and the Ole Miss family," said Rebel head coach Houston Nutt. "These two guys worked hard this year and deserved to be selected in the first round.

"Hopefully, we'll have more, if not today, then tomorrow. We'll definitely have more drafted in the future."

The last time Ole Miss had two first round picks in the same year of professional drafts was 1966.

Stan Hindman was selected 11th overall by San Francisco in the NFL draft and Mike Dennis was the first player taken by Buffalo in the AFL's draft process.

A two-time All-American and consensus First Team honoree as a senior, Oher is the third Ole Miss offensive lineman to be drafted in the opening round and highest since center Ed Beaty was tabbed No. 10 by the Los Angeles Rams in 1954.

Center Chris Spencer was selected No. 26 by Seattle in 2005. Oher becomes the 11th offensive player chosen and the highest since Eli Manning went No. 1 in 2004.

"I'm happy to be a part of the NFL," said Oher, who is the first Rebel to be drafted by the Ravens in their 13-year history. "It has been a long dream. Baltimore just got a great player. I'm not going to let them down. I'm going to give them everything I have. I could have gone in the seventh round. I can't wait to get started."

A First Team All-American and four-time SEC weekly award winner in 2009, Jerry is the Rebels' eighth defensive player and fifth tackle taken in the first round of the draft. Jerry becomes the highest DT chosen since Tim Bowen was the 20th selection in 1994. Ole Miss' highest defensive pick came in 1963 with tackle Jim Dunaway going No. 3 overall to Minnesota but later signed with Buffalo of the AFL.

Jerry is the first Rebel drafted by the Falcons since Roell Preston was their fifth-round pick in 1995.

A native of Memphis, Oher received the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the SEC's best blocker and was one of three finalists for the Outland Trophy. The 6-foot-5, 318-pounder helped the Rebels rank second in the SEC in rushing with 186.5 yards per game and fourth in sacks allowed with 1.5 per game in 2008.

Jerry finished the season first in the SEC in TFLs (18.0), fifth in QB sacks (7.0) and tied for sixth in forced fumbles (2). The Batesville, Miss., native helped the Rebel defense rank No. 2 in SEC and No. 4 in the nation in rush defense (85.5 ypg) and tie for first in the NCAA in TFLs (8.62 pg).

Gradually climbing the draft ladder before Saturday was WR Mike Wallace, who expects to be taken in the mid rounds.

Wallace established single-season school records as a senior in 2008, with 1,737 all-purpose yards and 861 yards in kick returns.

"Every team has talked about my upside," Wallace said. "They've told me I'm just now scratching the surface of my potential. I've improved in a lot of areas and am doing everything I can to get better. I'm just ready to get started."

Other draftees who could possibly be selected include RG Maurice Miller, SS Jamarca Sanford, LB Ashlee Palmer and DE Jeremy Parnell.

CB Dustin Mouzon has also thrown his name into the mix, along with LG Darryl Harris, FB Jason Cook and LB Tony Fein.

Each is expected to be candidates for free agent contracts.

* Ole Miss Athletic Media Relations contributed to this report.


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