Draft Notebook: Seven Gamecocks Drafted
Jasper Brinkley watched day two of the NFL Draft as things ticked along. Nine selections earlier, the former South Carolina linebacker saw teammate wide receiver Kenny McKinley be selected by the Denver Broncos.
But at pick No. 150, Brinkley heard his name called to join to the Minnesota Vikings' defense. And with that pick, Brinkley's thoughts turned to another former Gamecock wide receiver who he would be meeting up with soon. Brinkley will join Sidney Rice in Minnesota as the former teammates reunite after two seasons apart, this time on the national level.
"It's a great experience. I have one of my former teammates there, Sidney Rice. I feel like I've got somebody there I can look up to when I'm there," Brinkley said.
After transferring into South Carolina following a two-year stint at Georgia Military Academy, Brinkley made the most of his two full years in Columbia. In his first season, Brinkley racked up 107 tackles with 14.5 for a loss in 13 games. A knee injury ended his 2007 season after four games and the medical redshirt allowed him to return for the 2008 campaign. Brinkley didn't disappoint at the middle linebacker spot with 65 tackles and five tackles for a loss which earned him second-team All-SEC honors.
A solid showing at the NFL Combine helped him rank as one of the top interior linebackers in the country, but concerns over his weight left many scouts wondering if he could stay in shape. He left South Carolina pushing 275 lbs on the scales but trimmed his figure down to 249 lbs for the combine.
That effort boosted his stock and made him a quick riser on most mock draft boards, and that came to fruition in day two as Brinkley was selected in the fifth round with the 150th pick.
"I'm very surprised but they're always saying the worst. I expected the worst and it turned out to be good," Brinkley said.
The Vikings finished 2008 at 10-6 and had the No. 6 ranked defense in the NFL. Star running back Adrian Peterson has been the face of the Minnesota franchise the last two seasons and is a large part of their recent success. With all eyes on the Vikings' offense, Brinkley feels the spot is a great fit for him to help continue the defensive success.
"I feel like it's the right place. I'm ready to do whatever it takes to help the team win," Brinkley said. "I think it's going to be great. I need to go up there, get my mind right, get my head into focus."
McKinley heads to Mile High
Kenny McKinley was invited to workout for the Denver Broncos about a month ago, and following his trip to the Mile High city the former USC wide receiver told his father he would like to play there if he could.
On Sunday afternoon, the record setting wide out got his wish as the Broncos grabbed him with the 141st pick of the draft in the fifth round.
"It's a blessing man, a dream come true," McKinley said. "I felt like man if they would pick me up this would be a great place to play. Not knowing what team is going to pick you up is always in the back of your mind, who you're about to play for."
During his career as a Gamecock, McKinley rewrote the receiving records as he grabbed a record 207 passes for a record 2,781 yards. Those numbers were gaudy to say the least and caught plenty of professional scouts' attention. But at barely 6 feet, 190 lbs his size became a very talked about issue.
However, a slight weight gain and impressive showing at the NFL Combine helped make the undersized receiver appealing and earned him numerous private workouts across the league. While McKinley makes the adjustment to life as a pro football player, his new team is trying to figure out life after quarterback Jay Cutler. The Broncos shipped the Pro Bowl passer off to Chicago in a trade and did receive former Purdue quarterback and Bears starter Kyle Orton in the deal. The move came after former coach Mike Shanahan was let go and new coach Josh McDaniels was hired.
But those are problems McKinley isn't going to burden himself with.
"I can't worry about that. I've got to worry about getting my plays in and going in and doing what I can do. Whoever coach has for the quarterback that's for them," McKinley said. "I'm just excited to be on the team. I'm just trying to learn what to do and hopefully the quarterback situation will take care of itself."
Though on the roster he is currently the only South Carolina player listed, McKinley will not be alone in the city of Denver as a very close former teammate is still in the town.
"Then I had my old roommate and he's the godfather to my son, Cory Boyd, he was just up there this last year. He just got cut recently but he's still up there man," McKinley said. "I'm going to use him as a mentor on just what to do when I get up there and what not to do, just show me the ropes."
Meredith goes to Green Bay
Jamon Meredith saw his name sitting on ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper's best available player list. He was sitting atop the list as the number one player available for an extended period of time as three other offensive tackles went ahead of him.
So when the Green Bay Packers selected him with the 162nd pick in the fifth round, it was almost a sigh of relief. The former South Carolina offensive lineman will be called on to block for Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers on a team that expects to contend for their division title.
"I was very surprised," Meredith said. "I'm up for the challenge and really looking forward to it."
The Simpsonville native started in 38 games throughout his four-year career, including a streak of 28 straight starts through 2007. Though he had to sit out the first two games of the season due to eligibility issues, Meredith played in 11 of the team's 13 games last year, starting nine of them. He earned a spot on the East-West Shrine Game roster.
Meredith becomes the third Gamecock selected by Green Bay in the NFL draft with the previous two being Packer greats Sterling Sharpe and Robert Brooks.
"I'm very happy. I'm going to be one of the first offensive linemen (from South Carolina) to do it," Meredith said.
Munnerlyn, Woodson, Succop round out Gamecock selections
Junior cornerback Captain Munnerlyn won't have a long trip to make from Columbia to his new NFL job as he was selected by the Carolina Panthers in the seventh round with the 216th pick overall. In his three seasons at USC, Munnerlyn started 27 games with 127 tackles and five interceptions.
The surprise pick of the day came as senior cornerback Stoney Woodson caught the eye of the New York Giants and was also selected in the seventh round with the 238th overall pick. Woodson became a very reliable member of the Gamecock secondary in his four seasons on campus, playing in 48 games with 23 starts and leading the team two seasons in interceptions (2006 and 2008). His four interceptions last season tied for the eighth best in the SEC.
The final Gamecock to be selected had the longest wait of them all as kicker Ryan Succop became "Mr. Irrelevant" with his selection in the seventh round with the 256th and final pick of the draft. He was just one of five kicker/punters taken in the draft. He finished his four years at USC going 49-of-69 on field goal tries and scored 251 career points for the second highest total in school history.
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