Onward and upward

Read as InsideTennessee recaps the NFL draft and who from the Orange and White is headed where.

Another NFL Draft is in the books and the Tennessee Volunteers still boast the SEC's most NFL draft picks and the seventh most of any school nationally.

The first Vol prospect off the board was defensive lineman Malik Jackson, who was selected in the fifth round with the 137th overall pick by the Denver Broncos.

Jackson will join current Broncos and former Volunteers Peyton Manning, Robert Ayers and Britton Colquitt.

"I wanna first say thank God, 2nd thank you to the fans for everything, 3rd thank you to my football boys couldn't do it without y'all," Jackson said Saturday via Twitter. "So excited to be a Bronco. Dreams really do come true when u put your heart and soul into. Praise the lord. Time to get to work."

Jackson, who finished his two seasons at Tennessee with 104 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, eight sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception, was voted Associated Press All-SEC first team in 2011.

Two other former Volunteers had to wait for the draft to come to a close to get their opportunities.

Tennessee linebacker Austin Johnson.
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)

Former Tennessee running back Tauren Poole signed a deal with the Carolina Panthers as a free agent.

Poole, a Toccoa, Ga., native, rushed for 1883 yards and 16 touchdowns in 49 games in the orange and white.

Just before the NFL Draft, while participating in the East-West Shrine Game, Poole was awarded the Pat Tillman Award given to the player who best exemplifies character, intelligence, sportsmanship and service.

The third Vol to ink an NFL contract was linebacker Austin Johnson, who is headed to the Baltimore Ravens along with fellow SEC linebacker and second-round draft choice Courtney Upshaw.

Johnson played his first two seasons at fullback before switching over to linebacker for his junior and senior seasons.

The Hickory, N.C., native led the Vols in tackles as a senior with 81 starting in all 12 games. He added four interceptions, also a team high. Johnson was also a three-time Academic All-SEC student.

While the Volunteers still boast the most NFL draft picks all-time out of the SEC, with recent dry spells others are gaining ground.

Tennessee currently ranks second in the conference and fifth nationally with 63 Vols drafted since 2000.

However, Tennessee isn't the only powerhouse program with a thin draft crop as of late. Powerhouse programs Texas (3) and Florida (2) were also short on talent in the 2012 NFL draft.

Chris Price is a staff writer for InsideTennessee.com. He was previously an intern for the site for two years before graduating from the University of Tennessee. He joined the InsideTennessee team in 2009.

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