NFL DRAFT 2014

Sam to Rams highlights final rounds

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Michael Sam waited and waited. Hours passed, rounds came and went, and eventually, there were only eight more picks left on the third and final day of the NFL draft.

For just a moment, it looked like his chance of being picked by a pro team and becoming the league's first openly gay player might take a detour. Or at least be delayed.

The call finally came Saturday from the St. Louis Rams, the team right down the road from where Sam played college ball at the University of Missouri.

"In the world of diversity we live in now, I'm honored to be a part of this," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said in an interview on ESPN.

Sam was taken in the seventh round, 249th out of 256 picks, but there was applause at Radio City Music Hall from the slim crowd on hand.

When Mike Kensil, the NFL's vice president of game operations, walked to the podium in the draft's final minutes to announce the Rams' second-to-last pick, the crowd got a sense something was up. Very few of the last day picks were announced at the podium. Twitter lit up with suggestions the Rams were about to make news.

When Kensil said: "The St. Louis Rams select ... Michael Sam..." the fans gave a hearty cheer, chanting "Yes! Yes! Yes!" and "Michael Sam!"

"I knew I was going to get picked somewhere," Sam said. "Every team that passed me, I was thinking how I'm going to sack their quarterback."

Star quarterbacks of the SEC didn't have to wait as long as Sam did, but also will be long shots as early starters in the pros.

A.J. McCarron led Alabama to two national titles, but waited until the 164th overall spot to be selected by Cincinnati. Georgia's Aaron Murray went one pick earlier to Kansas City. LSU's Zach Mettenberger went in the sixth to Tennessee.

Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas was the first quarterback chosen on the last day, by Arizona in the fourth.

Murray had a penchant for big plays with the Bulldogs, but the SEC's career passing leader tore his ACL Nov. 8 and did not work out in the NFL combine. He figures to compete for a third-string job this year.

"There's no restrictions, no second thought when I'm running, cutting," Murray said. "It's full-speed, full-go ahead."

McCarron expects to learn behind Andy Dalton, who led the Bengals to three consecutive playoff berths for the first time in franchise history.

"I'm confident in myself, but at the same time, I know Andy's the QB out there and I respect that," McCarron said. "All I want to do is go in and help us in whatever way I can."

Thomas comes out of school healthy, but the inconsistency that plagued his career hurt his stock. Thomas never improved to the level expected with the Hokies after a strong debut.

In all, 14 quarterbacks were selected.

Andre Williams of Boston College, the nation's leading rusher, went to the New York Giants, whose backfield has been plagued by injuries. Williams rushed for 2,177 yards and won the Doak Walker Award as the top running back in 2013, but he is considered a weak receiver.

"Patience is a really valuable thing," Williams said. "It worked out the best possible way it could, no matter what round it ended up being."

National champion Florida State had two of the first five picks Saturday: running back Devonta Freeman to Atlanta, and center Bryan Stork, another All-American, to New England.

Another powerhouse program, Texas, did not have anyone taken, although its former quarterback, Garrett Gilbert, who transferred to SMU, was chosen at the end of the sixth.

When Buffalo made Duke cornerback Ross Cockrell the 109th overall selection, it was the highest a Blue Devil had gone since offensive lineman Lennie Friedman went to Denver in the second round in 1999.

The final player chosen, dubbed "Mr. Irrelevant," was Memphis safety Lonnie Ballentine. He was taken by the Texans.


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