Saturday represented “redemption day” in the NFL draft for a few Georgia Bulldogs.
Brandon Boykin and Orson Charles both projected as higher draft picks than when they were finally chosen in the fourth round. Charles, a tight end from Tampa who had a year of eligibility remaining, had to wait until the Cincinnati Benglas took him with the 116th pick overall early Saturday afternoon. Boykin, a defensive back and kick returner out of Fayetteville, went seven picks later to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Both were all-conference selections and highly-productive football players at Georgia, only to see their NFL stock devalued before the draft.
Charles had already been hurt by poor workouts when he was arrested for DUI in Athens on March 9. Boykin suffered a broken leg in the midst of an impressive performance in the Senior Bowl back in February. So instead of getting a call on the first or second day as originally expected, Boykin and Charles had to wait until day three to finally realize their NFL dreams.
“Based on what I expected, I was a little upset it didn’t happen sooner,” said Boykin, who was enjoying a party with family and friends at home in Fayetteville Saturday afternoon. “But after not getting my name called [Friday], I knew it’d definitely happen soon [on Saturday]. And when I finally got the call I was really excited. At this point, everybody’s on an even level and you just have to go out and prove yourself. That’s no different than I’ve always had to do.”
Charles said he definitely thought the arrest impacted his draft status. But he said he just tried to be honest with the teams that asked him about it.
“I just elaborated to them that it was a one-time mistake and that it won’t happen again,” Charles said. “That might have been the worst thing to happen in my life. [I had to] explain to my [11-year old] brother what I did and [tell him] ‘don’t follow in my footsteps’ and tell my mom I was sorry. I just put my family in a bind.”
Ben Jones was the first of six Georgia players to be selected on Saturday. Jones, a four-year-starter for the Bulldogs at center, was taken by the Houston Texans early in fourth round with the 99th pick overall.
“This is the best feeling I’ve ever had,” Jones told reporters. “I’m just excited. It’s in the South. I love being from the South. I was born down here. It’s good to stay down South. I can’t wait to get down there, enjoy Texas and be in Houston.”
Place-kicker Blair Walsh went to the Minnesota Vikings in the sixth round, offensive lineman Justin Anderson of Ocilla went to the Indianapolis Colts with the first pick of the seventh round and defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson was taken by the Ravens later in the seventh with the 236th pick overall.
Offensive lineman Cordy Glenn of Riverdale was the first Bulldog off the board when he chosen by the Buffalo Bills with the 41st pick overall during the second round on Friday.
Boykin said the Georgia players all leaned on each other as they were waiting to hear from the NFL.
“We talked the whole time,” Boykin said. “I was texting Ben and Orson throughout the day [Saturday]. I was telling them to hang in there; they were telling me to hang in there. We were just trying to be there for one another, not really knowing what was going to happen. But we all knew we were going to get our shot. Once Ben finally got picked it happened kind of quick for all of us.”
Boykin believes his situation is going to be worth the wait.
“I was the first corner they took in the draft, so they definitely want me to come in and play right away and compete for the nickel spot,” he said. “They want me to go out and be a punt returner and a kick returner, too. That’s what they told me today. So I’m just going to go up there and do what I’ve been doing.”
Boykin won the Paul Hornung Award as college football’s most versatile athlete this past season. He finished his career with 2,663 kickoff return yards – second best in SEC history – and returned four for touchdowns, including three for 100 yards each. He was also named MVP of the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1 when he scored three different ways: a tackle for a safety, a pass reception for a touchdown and a 92-yard punt return for a TD.
Boykin said he has completely recovered from his leg injury and will be ready to compete when the Eagles’ rookie mini-camp begins on May 11.
Charles was also eager to get started. He is close friends with former Georgia teammate A.J. Green, who starred as a rookie wide receiver for the Bengals last season. Charles was surprised to learn he’d have to wait until mid-May to report.
“Essentially it was in my head I would come up there today and start working with some of the guys on the team and start to get familiar with how Andy Dalton throws and hang out with A.J. and try to come in and make an impact in my rookie year,” he said.
Punter Drew Butler, defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson and tight ends Bruce Figgins and Aron White were among the Georgia graduates still hoping to hear from the NFL.
The following Georgia players were selected in the 2012 NFL draft: