Early on the third and final day of the NFL draft, just nine picks apart in the fourth round, Eric Murray and De’Vondre Campbell learned what their immediate futures hold.
The two also contributed to the University of Minnesota’s recent draft success. Murray, a 5-11, 199-pound cornerback, was taken by Kansas City with the 106th pick overall. Minutes later Campbell, a 6-4, 232-pound linebacker just beginning to tap into his potential, was taken by Atlanta at No. 115.
Murray watched his name come up in his Milwaukee home, surrounded by friends and family. Campbell watched from his Minneapolis apartment with his girlfriend and daughter. Together, they ensured the Gophers have had multiple players picked for the third consecutive season.
Murray was a second-team All-Big Ten selection in 2014 and a third-team selection in 2015. He has a reputation for durability, having started 39 straight games. As a senior he started 13 games and had 66 tackles, four tackles for loss, a sack, an interception and a fumble recovery. He also broke up a team-best seven passes.
“It was exciting,” Murray said. “I thought I’d never see my name come up. It’s a weird feeling.’’ Murray said the Chiefs’ defensive scheme would be a good fit. “I know they play a lot of man, a lot of press man coverage.”
Campbell, frankly, was a bit surprised when he got the call in the fourth round. “But they always say it takes only one team to fall in love with you,” Campbell said. “I think I did my part in the interviews, and when I took my visit out there. I gave them the best impression possible.”
Campbell visited the Falcons a week and a half ago. A very productive player with the Gophers, the feeling is Campbell has just scratched the surface of his ability.
An outside linebacker with strong pass-rushing skills, Campbell had 75 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks as a junior. As a senior he had 92 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and a team-high four sacks and was named honorable-mention All-Big Ten.
He said the Falcons want him to play weakside linebacker but that he will rush the passer as well. And he’s still learning.
“Most people don’t know I’ve only been playing linebacker four years,” he said. “I’m nowhere near where I can be. I’m not close to that level. I’m still learning how to play the position.”
He will need a steep learning curve.
“I think I’ll fit in there well,” he said of the Falcons “I feel I’m going into a system that will complement my skill set. They run a system similar to the Gophers.”
After the draft, four Gophers were scooped up: Receiver KJ Maye tweeted he joined the New York Giants, cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun tweeted he joined the Jacksonville Jaguars, Peter Mortell tweeted he joined the Green Bay Packers and defensive end Theiren Cockran tweeted he joined the Vikings.
The Gophers had four players taken in the 2015 draft — tight end Maxx Williams (second round), linebacker Damien Wilson (fourth), tailback David Cobb (fifth) and defensive back Cedric Thompson (fifth).
Defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman, who’s also a Falcon, and safety Brock Vereen were selected in the 2014 draft.