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Stately showing -- again

Miami leads the charge as eight first-round picks come from state schools.

By BRIAN LANDMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 22, 2001


Even while they were dominating college football and winning four national championships, the Miami Hurricanes never had a year when four players were selected in the first round of the NFL draft.

That changed Saturday.

All-everything linebacker Dan Morgan went No. 11 to Carolina, defensive tackle Damione Lewis followed at No. 12 to St. Louis, wide receiver/punt returner Santana Moss went No. 16 to the New York Jets and receiver Reggie Wayne was taken with the No. 30 pick by Indianapolis. The Hurricanes led another predictable flood of first-rounders from the Sunshine State as they were joined by Florida defensive tackle Gerard Warren (third, Cleveland) and offensive tackle Kenyatta Walker (14th, Bucs) and Florida State defensive end Jamal Reynolds (10th, Green Bay) and safety Derrick Gibson (28th, Oakland). Not that the numbers should surprise anyone.

The big three state schools, renowned for speedy athletes who have played against top-shelf competition, have combined for 63 first-round selections in the past 15 drafts. Lewis, in fact, likens himself to one of those former first-round picks from UM.

"I know I play a lot like Warren Sapp," said the 6-21/2, 293-pound Lewis. "The guys that came from Miami were taught to play upfield and cause havoc in the backfield and that's pretty much what I brought to the game."

Warren, the first defensive tackle taken, became the first Gator defensive player ever taken in the top 3. He also is the highest-drafted Gator since receiver Wes Chandler went No. 3 overall to the New Orleans Saints in 1978.

"We really felt that Gerard was a terrific player," said Browns coach Butch Davis, the former UM coach who has known Warren, nicknamed "Big Money," since he was a high school junior. "He's a big, extraordinarily athletic man, 320 pounds, a guy who provided a lot of sacks, a lot of pressures. We just really felt he'd bring a dimension to our defense."

Green Bay general manager Ron Wolf echoed that about Reynolds, the Lombardi Award winner who had 12 sacks last season and 15 tackles for a loss.

"He's a great back-side player, that's what we really liked," Wolf said. "We play a defense now, run-and-chase, and he's exceptional in that area."

That ability to run down quarterbacks and ball carriers is also the forte of Miami's defensive leader, Morgan, an All-American who won the Butkus, Bednarik and Nagurski Awards. Make no mistake. Speed is why the Jets traded up grab Moss.

"He's a little shorter (at 5-9 he's the shortest wideout ever taken in the first round) than some people would like, but he's an explosive guy," said first-year coach Herm Edwards, the former Bucs assistant. "And can really put a little fear in the defenses."

-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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