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2006 NFL Draft Recap: Syracuse Edition

Frankenstein failed to draft any Syracuse Orange. . .
Praise Allah!

In what can only be described as "mind-boggling," Syracuse University had four former football players drafted over the course of the 2006 NFL Draft. For the record, I am not sure whether to be thrilled for the Syracuse football program or worried what will become of the National Football League.

Anthony Smith: Pittsburgh Steelers
Anthony Smith, an All-Big East free safety from Hubbard, Ohio, was Syracuse's highest selection in this year's draft. Taken by the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers, he was the 19th pick in the third round and 83rd overall. He is the first Syracuse player to be drafted by Pittsburgh since 1982, when the Steelers selected linebacker Craig Bingham in the sixth round.

In a piece penned by Post-Standard staff writer Donnie Webb, Smith appears thrilled with where he ended up:

Smith said he's been told he can compete for a starting job with the Steelers, who defeated the Seattle Seahawks earlier this year to win the Super Bowl.

The Steelers are looking for a replacement for starting free safety Chris Hope, who signed a free-agent contract with the Tennessee Titans. Smith said he's ready to compete and win the job.

"It's exciting for me," Smith said. "I'm just going to do what I do and handle my business."
Quinn Ojinnaka: Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons selected offensive lineman Quinn Ojinnaka with the sixth pick in the fifth round (139th overall). Ojinnaka's selection makes him the first former Orange student-athlete to be drafted by Atlanta since 1986, when the Falcons chose linebacker Tim Green with the 17th overall selection in the draft.

As Webb notes in his blog, Ojinnaka, suprisingly, had a number of suitors:

Ojinnaka said he received calls from the Cowboys and Patriots in the fifth round telling him to hang tight, that each club was prepared to possibly draft him. He said when the Atlanta Falcons came on the screen, he looked away thinking they had no interest. As soon as he did, the phone rang. Ojinnaka said he did not recognize the number and thought, "this is it." The call was from Altanta Falcons coach Jim Mora, announcing his selection.
The best quote from Ojinnaka, however, comes in the same blog entry. Asked about whether he was excited about playing with human video game controller Michael Vick, Ojinnaka had this to say:

"Oh man. It's like Perry Patterson times 10," he said.
Obviously, Ojinnaka was talking about talent and not pants size as Patterson is literally 10 times the man Michael Vick is.

James Wyche: Jacksonville Jaguars
Round seven saw the selection of Syracuse defensive end James Wyche by the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars took Wyche with the fifth pick in the round (213th overall selection). Wyche is the first Syracuse student-athlete to be taken by the Jaguars since 2000 when they chose offensive tackle Mark Baniewicz.

As Donnie Webb dutifully posts in his blog, it does not appear that Wyche expected to be selected this afternoon:

Wyche said he was outside of his home in Roosevelt talking with friends when his mother, Delores Wyche, came running and screaming. Wyche said his mom was crying after seeing his name flash across the television screen.

"I started crying too," Wyche said. "She was always there for me. She came to every one of my Syracuse games. She was always behind me."
Ryan LaCasse: Baltimore Ravens
In what could only be deemed as fitting, Ryan LaCasse -- Wyche's bookend on Syracuse's defensive line -- was drafted six spots after Wyche by Baltimore with the 219th overall pick. LaCasse will join former Orange offensive tackle (and permanent injured reserve fixture) Adam Terry on the Ravens roster. Baltimore chose Terry in the second round in the 2005 NFL Draft.

. . . And The Rest
Instead of writing a fancy introduction, I'll let Webb do the work:

Free Agents

Tailback Damien Rhodes said he accepted a free agent contract to sign with the Houston Texans. Talk about going to a team that screams, help wanted!

Offensive center/guard Steve Franklin says he's signing with Kansas City. Franklin said he had 14 offers including Arizona, SC, Indy, Cincy and Baltimore. "The Chiefs fit my style of play," he said. "They want me to be a swing guy (guard and center)."

Cornerback Steve Gregory says he is signing with the San Diego Chargers (and being reunited with former SU assistant coach Brian Stewart, who coaches the SD secondary). Gregory said he also had offers from Arizona, Cleveland and KC. "I signed with San Diego pretty quick," he said. "They're a good fit. I was here my first year under Coach Stewart, so I have a history and a good chance to make the team. It's a good deal."

Outside linebacker Kellen Pruitt says he has an invitation, but no contract, to participate in a rookie minicamp with the Washington Redskins. Pruitt said he's still hoping to land a free agent contract.

No word yet on defensive tackle Kader Drame.

Tight end Joe Kowalewski, who had season-ending shoulder surgery and was essentially unable to work out for teams, said he did not have an offer but is still hoping to get in someone's mini-camp. JoeKo said his shoulder is 100 percent , but his inability to work out for teams since the surgery was clearly a factor. "You want to go out there, run the 40, show them my speed and my athletic ability," Kowalewski said. "Hopefully, someone will give me a shot and I can show them what I’m about."

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