Thursday night had to be bittersweet for Gophers coach Jerry Kill.
He and his wife, Rebecca, were at Radio City Music Hall, as special guests of Ra’Shede Hageman, who was one of 30 players invited to the green room for the first round of the NFL Draft.
Thirty-two names were called, and Hageman wasn’t one of them. The Gophers haven’t had a first-round pick since Laurence Maroney went 21st overall to New England in 2006, so this extended that drought.
But Hageman is a likely second-round pick. And former Gophers safety Brock Vereen could go by the end of the third round Friday night, especially after nine defensive backs went in the first round.
Kill will enjoy those Hageman and Vereen picks whenever they happen, and Thursday brought a special treat for his old school, Northern Illinois. With the 30th pick, the 49ers took Jimmie Ward, a safety Kill’s staff brought to Northern Illinois in 2010 out of Mobile, Ala.
Here’s a tweet from Gophers recruiting coordinator Billy Glasscock:
And here’s a tweet from Ward on Jay Sawvel, the defensive backs coach who recruited him to Northern Illinois:
Big shout out to coach Jay Sawvel..The only D1 coach who took a chance on me. A genius when it comes to football pic.twitter.com/tfPd0VJ1nZ— Jimmie ward (@ward_jimmie) May 8, 2014
Sawvel has continued unearthing hidden gems for the Gophers, including Cedric Thompson and Eric Murray. The secondary figures to be a big strength this fall, despite the loss of Vereen. And as I wrote last month, Sawvel has continued cultivating Alabama for the Gophers, landing recruits such as Jerry Gibson and Gary Moore.
So Thursday wasn't all bad for Kill. And there was another reminder that there could be brighter days ahead for the Gophers.