STORRS, Conn. – The University of Connecticut football team had three players taken in the first eight picks of the third round of the NFL Draft on Friday night. Cornerback Dwayne Gratz (Piscataway, N.J.) was the first Husky taken as he was the third pick (64th overall) and was selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The picks came fast and furious for the Huskies as linebacker Sio Moore (Apex, N.C.) was two selections later as the 68th overall pick and is now a member of the Oakland Raiders. Cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson (Edinboro, Pa.) rounded out the UConn picks as the eighth pick of the third round (70th overall) to the Tennessee Titans.
UConn’s three draft picks in the first three rounds is the highest since four Huskies went in the first two rounds in 2009. The NFL Draft finishes on Saturday with round four through seven.
Gratz and Wreh-Wilson combined to start 80 games at cornerback over the last four year at Connecticut and were both honored as All-BIG EAST Second Team members following this past season. At 6-foot-0, Gratz led the UConn defense with three interceptions as a senior, including a 37-yard pick returned for a touchdown. For his career, he totaled eight interceptions for 152 return yards, including a 46-yard pick-six against Oklahoma in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl. Wreh-Wilson grabbed eight career interceptions, totaling 171 returns yards and ran two back for scores in 2010.
Moore (6-foot-2, 229 lbs.) started each of the last three seasons at outside linebacker. He was named to the All-BIG EAST First Team in December. Moore led the squad with 15.5 tackles for loss, while Williams was third with 13.5; both ranking in the top four in the league.
All three Huskies participated in the NFL Combine, as did defensive lineman Trevardo Williams (Bridgeport, Conn.), who looks to get a call in the Draft on Saturday. Moore played in both the Senior Bowl and the East-West Shrine Game while Gratz and Wreh-Williams also played in the Senior Bowl.
Dwayne Gratz, Jacksonville Jaguars Cornerback
Description of waiting to be drafted: “I was very nervous not knowing where I could end up. We haven’t played since December 1, so I’ve just wanted to get back on the field. It was a long process and I was just waiting for it to be over with.”
On prospect of going to Jacksonville: “[Jacksonville] came to [UConn] to work me out and I knew that they really believed in my abilities to grow as a player and a person. I’m looking forward to going out there and playing again.”
On where he fits as a NFL cornerback: “Right now, [Jacksonville] needs help at the cornerback position, so if they’re looking for someone to come in and compete as a starter, I consider myself becoming a starter soon. I’m going to compete and continue what I’ve been doing, which is working hard. I think I’ll be in a good position and everything will work out.”
What it was like to see Sio Moore and Blidi Wreh-Wilson drafted soon after: “It was very exciting. We put in a lot of work playing for UConn for five years. We all wanted to see each other go and it didn’t matter who went first or last.”
Sio Moore, Oakland Raiders Linebackers
Thoughts of being a third round pick: “You never know what’s going to happen in these situations. People say a lot of things and you can get your hopes up, but for me it’s what I’m used to. I always have a chip on my shoulder. The whole process has reinforced the entire thing. I’m glad to be a part of [the Oakland Raiders].”
Reaction to Gratz getting drafted: “I was happy, man. That’s like my brother right there. It was just a blessing for him to pave the way for his future. There’s nothing I can do, but feel happy for Dwayne and I’m glad he got the opportunity.”
On finding out he was being taken by the Raiders: “I just saw that it was a California area code and knew that they had a couple of picks. The GM, Reggie McKenzie, asked if I wanted to be a Raider and I said, `you’re dog-gone right’.”
On feeling anxious as the draft went on: “After New York and Chicago had gone in the second round because I had met with Chicago the day before the draft and I thought that was going to be a sure thing. It didn’t happen and I’m just glad that the right organization picked me.”
Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Tennessee Titans
Cornerback On the waiting process: “Minutes go by long…I’m not going to lie. My agent gave me a range [where I would be drafted] and I went in the range that they gave me, so I knew it was coming my way. Once I saw seven [Dwayne] and three [Sio] go, I knew seven [Blidi] was coming soon.”
On Tennessee’s level of interest: “They had told me that they were disappointed that I didn’t work out for them. I thought that the pro day was the best way for me to show what I can do. At the end of the day they picked me and I’m just glad that they did.”
On being close with Dwayne Gratz and Sio Moore: “We came in and we all were impact freshmen. Our redshirt-freshmen year, Sio had a heck of a year, Dwayne had a good year and I had a pretty good year. It was crazy that we all went so close in the draft. We all went third round and we all went to good teams.”