If Jordan Todman was shocked by lasting until the sixth round of the NFL Draft, former UConn teammates Zach Hurd and Scott Lutrus must have been beside themselves with disappointment.
Both players were projected as late-round selections, but the draft came and went, 254 picks in all, and neither heard their names called. Hurd, a 6-7, 316-pound offensive lineman known for his work ethic and toughness, did all the right things in the weeks and months leading up to the draft.
"I had very good interviews with all the teams," Hurd said after the NFL Combine in February. "I feel like I did very well, drawing up...doing plays on the board - just the knowledge I have for the game. And as far as on the field stuff I think I did very well with position drills, showed that I could play tackle as well as pulling and playing guard.
"Nothing I did was top of everybody but I also wasn't at the bottom with everything I did. I was very consistent with everything I did. I was always in the middle to above average."
In previous years Hurd would have been signed as an undrafted free agent. As soon as the draft concludes, NFL general managers and coaches frantically work the phones to sign 8-10 players that may have been on their draft boards but ultimately went undrafted.
The process isn't an academic one; last year more than 20 undrafted free agents played in the Pro Bowl. The Steelers, a team thought to be interested in Hurd, have had a lot of success with non-drafted players. In 2006, running back Willie Parker set the record for longest touchdown run in Super Bowl history, and in the Big Game three years later, James Harrison had a 99-yard interception returned for touchdown. Both players weren't drafted.
As for Hurd's state of mind over the weekend, he was understandably upset. "Truthfully, I don't have much to say right now," Hurd said, according to TheDay.com. "I'm sure people understand that I want to take some time to gather my thoughts."
Former UConn linebacker Scott Lutrus also went undrafted, although he would have certainly been signed as a free agent. There are concerns that he has trouble staying healthy, but his size (6-2, 241 pounds) and speed (4.68 in the 40-yard dash) make him an attractive special teams player early in his career while he learns the nuances of the NFL linebacker position.
There is an upside to all this: when the labor dispute is settled, NFL teams should be able to sign those players who went undrafted. And unlike late-round picks who often have little chance of making the final roster, undrafted free agents can choose where to sign. So in Hurd's case, he could decide to go to a club with needs at offensive line instead of a team well stocked at the position.
Drafted or not, the process can be excruciating. Former UConn linebacker Greg Lloyd was taken by the Eagles in the seventh round. During a conference call Saturday night he said, "The whole situation is insane. … It is definitely the most stressful situation I have ever been in. I was just waiting for my name to be called and waiting to know what I was going to do with my life. To get that call was definitely exhilarating. I can't compare it to anything."
The good news is that once the owners and players can come to terms, Hurd and Lutrus should get their opportunities. For now, though, all they can do is wait.