Football fans at both ends of Beaufort County will have extra incentive to tune in to this weekend’s NFL Draft, and it has nothing to do with seeing who their favorite teams add to the roster.
The county has produced only seven NFL Draft picks over the past 35 years – and only two in the past 25 years – but has the chance to hear two native sons’ names called this weekend.
Former Hilton Head High star Poona Ford and Whale Branch product Dee Delaney won’t be watching the draft, though – they’ll be keeping a closer eye on their phones. Whether their calls come during the seven-round draft or shortly thereafter with a free-agent deal attached, both Ford and Delaney are expected to have NFL deals by the end of the weekend.
NFL.com projects Ford as a potential late-round pick despite the fact he was not invited to the NFL Combine. Being underestimated is nothing new for Ford, who was told he was too short and too slow to succeed at the major-college level before signing to play for coach Charlie Strong at Texas, where he earned Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year honors as a senior.
“It’s not even really a surprise anymore,” Ford said of the NFL Combine snub. “My response is just what I do on the field.”
No one has ever been able to question his production. He dominated the competition at the North-South all-star game to earn a spot in the Senior Bowl and impressed scouts at the Longhorns’ senior day.
Still, he won’t be surprised if his name isn’t called during the draft.
“I’ve had to prove myself at every level,” Ford said. “I guess I’ve got to reestablish myself again.”
Delaney was a two-time FCS All-America defensive back at The Citadel before taking a graduate transfer offer to finish his career at Miami in hopes of showing NFL teams what he could do against stronger competition.
After some initial growing pains and an injury that cost him three games, Delaney finished the season strong and had a good enough showing in the all-star games and at the NFL Combine to make him a possible last-day pick, or more likely a priority free agent.
“Obviously it didn’t go exactly as I’d hoped,” Delaney said of his tenure at Miami. “But I learned a lot from my time at Miami in the short time I was there, and I think it made me a better person and a better player.”
Delaney takes solace in the knowledge that even if his name is not called during the draft, he knows there’s still a path to success in the NFL. Fellow Beaufort native Ron Parker has proven that. After going undrafted, Parker bounced around the league for two years before landing a full-time role with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013 – and a five-year, $25 million two years later.
“I know him pretty well, and I look up to him a lot,” Delaney said. “Just the situation he was in, fighting for a spot everywhere he went, that’s how I feel. And it ended up working out for him.”
Everyone in the Lowcountry will hope for the same for Ford and Delaney this weekend, giving us two more reasons to tune in on Sundays in the fall.
LOWCO DRAFT PRODUCTS
A look at players from Beaufort County high schools who have been drafted by NFL teams.
|Player||High School||Year||Round||NFL Team|
|Devin Taylor||Beaufort High||2013||4th||Detroit|
|Greg Jones||Battery Creek||2004||2nd||Jacksonville|
|Donnell Washington||Battery Creek||2004||3rd||Green Bay|
|Wayne Simmons||Hilton Head High||1993||1st||Green Bay|
|James Saxon||Battery Creek||1988||6th||Kansas City|
|Fred Smalls||Battery Creek||1986||7th||San Diego|
|Boyce Green||Beaufort High||1983||11th||Cleveland|
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