ORLANDO, FL - OCTOBER 26: Yawin Smallwood #33 of the Connecticut Huskies watches the action during the game against the UCF Knights at Bright House Networks Stadium on October 26, 2013 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Only two Huskies football players were selected during the NFL's three-day draft, and both came in the seventh round, long after the glitz and glamour of Thursday's made-for-television, primetime spectacle outdrew the NBA and NHL playoffs.
Defensive lineman Shamar Stephen was taken by the Vikings with the 220th pick, and the Falcons selected linebacker Yawin Smallwood 253rd overall. But as the old NFL adage goes, it's not where you start, it's where you finish. And for Smallwood, who had a chip on his shoulder heading into the draft, he'll be even more motivated to prove his critics wrong in the coming weeks and months.
"Once it got to the second round I was waiting for my name to be called," Smallwood said, via the New Haven Register. In the third round I was still waiting, fourth, fifth, sixth and I still didn’t see my name getting called. I kept seeing players I thought I was better than. I was (wondering) whether I was going to get drafted. I started getting calls from teams talking about free agency. I was a little disappointed and I got that call from Atlanta, they told me they loved the type of player I am and they were going to draft me. It felt great, it was a great moment."
If the Falcons hadn't taken Smallwood, he would have signed an undrafted free-agent contract with the hometown Patriots.
"I started getting a lot of phone calls from teams talking about free agency," Smallwood said, via the Hartford Courant. "I was disappointed but tried to stay positive about the whole thing but shed a couple tears and everything when I got that call from Atlanta. I knew they had a pick, and they said they wanted me to talk to the general manger [Thomas Dimitroff]."
Next up: proving his doubters wrong.
"I'm ready to go to work now, showcase my talent."