Friday, April 29, 2011

Smith, Gabbert Go In First Round of NFL Draft

Five Tigers Have Gone In First Round In Last Three Years

New York, N.Y. – A pair of University of Missouri football standouts were selected Thursday night in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, as sophomore DE Aldon Smith (Raytown, Mo.) and junior QB Blaine Gabbert (Ballwin, Mo.) were taken seventh and 10th overall, by the San Francisco 49ers and the Jacksonville Jaguars, respectively.  This marks the first time in Mizzou history that two Tigers have gone in th

e top 10 in the same draft.  Prior to 2011, Mizzou had a total of five top-10 draft picks in school history.

Mizzou’s rise to national prominence under Head Coach Gary Pinkel (40 wins in the last four years ranks 10th-most in the nation from 2007-10) corresponds to a much bigger role in the NFL Draft of late.  Gabbert and Smith give Mizzou five first-round draft picks in the last three years – a figure which ranks tied for most in the nation (through pick number 14 of this year’s draft).

Previously, WR Jeremy Maclin (No. 19 to Philadelphia in 2009) became the first Tiger to play under Gary Pinkel to become a first-round pick.  He was joined in that same draft by DL Ziggy Hood (No. 32 to Pittsburgh) to mark the first time since 1977 that two Tigers went in the first round in the same draft.  That feat was followed in 2010 when LB Sean Weatherspoon became the third first-rounder in two years (No. 19 to Atlanta).

“I’m really happy and excited for Blaine and Aldon,” said Pinkel.  “They have both had dreams for a long time to play in the NFL, and they’re great examples of how those goals can be reached through our program at Mizzou.  They’re both going to quality franchises, and it’s really rewarding to continue to see more and more of our guys playing at the next level.  I know they’re going to do great things and be great representatives of our program going forward,” he said.

Nineteen Tigers who played under Pinkel have now been drafted thus far, with the potential for more to hear their name called as the draft continues Friday (rounds 2-3) and Saturday (rounds 4-7).

The recent stretch of five first-rounders in three years is unprecedented in Mizzou history.  The most comparable stretch came from 1977-81, when four Tigers were taken in the first round during that five-year period.  Mizzou also had four first-round picks during an earlier six-year stretch, from 1966-71.