Four Badgers selected in NFL draft
Four Badgers drafted
With a knee injury that’s likely to keep him off the field for a year and a nagging legal issue, former University of Wisconsin cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu knew there was a chance he wouldn’t get drafted at all.
But talent trumped trouble in the end, and the Philadelphia Eagles took Ikegwuonu near the end of Sunday’s fourth round. On a conference call with reporters who cover the Eagles, Ikegwuonu said he tried to stay positive throughout what has been a difficult offseason.
“I have good people around me,” said Ikegwuonu, who skipped his senior season to enter the draft. “They kept my head up, and I was just hoping for the best.”
A total of four Wisconsin players were taken Sunday, including three in the sixth round: Placekicker Taylor Mehlhaff by the New Orleans Saints, defensive tackle Nick Hayden by the Carolina Panthers and wide receiver Paul Hubbard by the Cleveland Browns.
Ikegwuonu said he isn’t likely to play this season after sustaining a serious knee injury during a predraft workout in January.
“I think with what’s at stake and the level of competition, it’s just not realistic to see me contributing on a significant level this year,” Ikegwuonu said.
In addition to the injury, Ikegwuonu also had to answer questions about his character in the months leading up to the draft. Ikegwuonu and his brother, William, were arrested in December 2006 and accused of breaking into an apartment.
Ikegwuonu would not comment specifically on the incident but said it isn’t an accurate reflection of who he is.
“Most people that know me and have been around me my whole life know that I’m not a troublemaker,” Ikegwuonu said. “I’m a hardworking kid.”
Ikegwuonu wasn’t as consistent as a junior as he was during his outstanding sophomore season, but he did lead the Badgers in pass breakups with 16 last season.
Mehlhaff, the 178th overall pick, was the first kicker taken in the draft and the second specialist overall taken behind punter Georgia Tech punter Durant Brooks.
“When the fifth round started, I kind of sat down and started watching and looking at the teams that might need a kicker,” Mehlhaff said. “It felt pretty dang good to get that call.”
Mehlhaff finished his career second on Wisconsin’s all-time scoring list with 295 points and was tied for second on the school’s made-field-goal list with 50.
He’s looking forward to proving himself in New Orleans.
“Anywhere you go, you’ve got to go in there and compete,” Mehlhaff said. “I think this is a good opportunity for me. I think out of all the places that are looking for kickers, this is one of the better opportunities.”
Hayden went off the board shortly after Mehlhaff when Carolina made him the 181st overall selection.
“It’s definitely exciting,” Hayden said. “I’d been waiting all day for my name to be called. I was waiting by my phone and I knew when my phone rang it was my time. … They called and asked if I wanted to be a Carolina Panther. I said, ‘Heck yeah, I want to be a Carolina Panther.”‘
Hayden ranked sixth on the team with 48 tackles and third with 4½ sacks.
“I was just looking for the opportunity. My opportunity came and I’m ready to take advantage of it,” he said.
Hubbard was the fourth and final Badgers player taken in the draft, to the Browns with the 191st overall pick. He’ll join former college teammate Joe Thomas in Cleveland.
Hubbard missed five games during the 2007 season after injuring his knee in the Badgers’ second game. He finished the year with 14 catches for 305 yards in eight games.