Connor Headed to Carolina

Long wait ends when Penn State linebacker is taken in third round of the 2008 NFL Draft. Justin King goes to St. Louis with the second pick of the fourth round. And that's it as far as PSU players are concerned.

The long wait finally ended for Penn State linebacker Dan Connor. Projected by many to be a middle to late first-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, the All-American did not hear his name called in the event's first two rounds Saturday.

The draft resumed with round three Sunday morning, and Connor was taken by the Carolina Panthers with the 11th pick of the round and the 74th selection overall.

"I didn't expect it," Connor told the Panthers' official web site when asked about falling out of the first two rounds. "But I'm still excited to be on the team right now and have mini-camp coming up. I don't think it's the worst thing in the world. I'm more excited about this being the start of a long NFL career."

Connor was the first PSU player drafted, marking the fourth time this decade the Nittany Lions did not have a first- or second-round pick.

Why did Connor slip? While he is considered to be outstanding at diagnosing plays and making tackles, there were concerns about his size (6-foot-2, 231) and ability to drop into coverage.

Also, his position clearly was not a priority for any NFL teams in this year's draft.

Connor was the sixth linebacker picked in the draft and the third inside 'backer. The previous inside linebackers selected were Oklahoma's Curtis Lofton (Atlanta, second round, No. 37 overall) and Miami's Tavares Gooden, who went to Baltimore three spots before Connor.

In Carolina, Connor will be reunited with former Penn State linebacker Tim Shaw, who was a fifth-round pick in 2007.

Meanwhile, Justin King, the All-Big Ten cornerback who bypassed his final year at Penn State to enter the draft, went to St. Louis with the second pick of the fourth round, the 101st overall selection.

Fifteen other cornerbacks were selected before King.

No other PSU players were taken in the draft. This tied for State's second-worst showing in the draft since Joe Paterno became head coach of the program in 1966, with only the 2005 (none) and 1999 (two) selection meetings featuring fewer than three Nits.

Former Lions who will be looking to take the free-agent route into the league include running backs Rodney Kinlaw and Austin Scott, quarterback Anthony Morelli, and receiver Terrell Golden.

As of this writing, Morelli had agreed to a deal with the Arizona Cardinals, Scott was headed to the Cleveland Browns and Golden announced on his Facebook site that he would sign with the Philadelphia Eagles.

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