Jones, Henry and Gramatica are chosen 1-2-3 on the opening of Day 2 of the draft.
By BRIAN LANDMAN and ANTONYA ENGLISH
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 23, 2001
TAMPA -- The South Florida football program made its foray into the NFL with flair Sunday, when the first three Bulls' players ever drafted were chosen consecutively to open the fourth round.
Tackle Kenyatta Jones, safety Anthony Henry and kicker Bill Gramatica were taken 96th, 97th and 98th overall. Though it came a bit later than he had hoped, Jones made history by becoming the first Bull to be drafted.
"It's an honor," he said excitedly.
The Patriots traded up with the Chargers to select the powerful 6-foot-3, 308-pound Jones. Henry then went to the Browns and Gramatica to the Cardinals, prompting Gene Washington to remark as he glanced at the Cardinals' card: "This must be some kind of record."
The last time three players from the same school were chosen in succession was in 1996, and that was from an established Division I-A program, Pittsburgh. USF has been playing football just four seasons and just completed its transitional season from I-AA to full-fledged I-A status.
Talk about the running of the Bulls.
"That's pretty powerful for that to happen; it's really amazing," USF coach Jim Leavitt said. "If they would have went in the third round, we wouldn't have gotten that kind of publicity. It's absolutely overwhelming. If that's not headline news, I don't know what is. ... But I'm really excited for them. They've all done such a great job for us."
All three not only could make their respective clubs, but contribute immediately.
It's no secret that New England's Drew Bledsoe isn't the most mobile quarterback. The Patriots needed offensive line help, particularly at all-important left tackle. They did add Purdue guard Matt Light in the second round.
"Kenyatta Jones is a player," gushed ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper during Sunday's broadcast, noting that Jones has the quickness and versatility to play guard or tackle.
"I think they may try him at tackle," said Andre Jones, one of Jones' agents. "Coming from a pass-oriented offense, you know with Drew they are going to put the ball in the air. So this is an opportunity for Kenyatta to perfect the pass block and an opportunity to get better with the run."
It's no secret that teams can find gems in the fourth round. In recent years, Jacksonville took quarterback Rob Johnson and the Redskins took running back Stephen Davis. "We were waiting on it last night and I was kind of disappointed," said Kenyatta Jones, projected to go as high as the second round. "Some guys I hadn't heard of went early. But everything happens for a reason ... all the hard work has paid off and now this is a dream come true.
"And it (going later than expected) gives me a little more drive to prove myself. I just have to focus on what I need to do to be the best player I can be on the field and off."
Andre Jones said his client could lose up to $200,000 in signing bonus money by being taken in the fourth instead of the third, but said he and agent Hadley Engelhard have instructed Jones to look at the bigger picture.
"Everybody just wants to get drafted," Andre Jones said. "We told him he's not playing for this year. If he signs (his next contract) in three or four years for $3- or $4-million, then $200,000 will be really irrelevant."
The 6-foot, 205-pound Henry was the third of four picks from the Sunshine State for Browns first-year coach Butch Davis, formerly at the University of Miami.
Henry played safety for the first three years of his career and moved to cornerback last season, finishing with 40 tackles, eight passes broken up and a career-high five interceptions. With the exception of cornerbacks Daylon McCutcheon, Corey Fuller and Lewis Sanders, the Browns aren't loaded in the secondary and Henry's versatility is a major plus.
"This is a dream come true," said Henry, who opted for the solitude of his Tampa apartment instead of a big party with family and friends. "They said I had a good personal workout and I felt comfortable with them. I'm so glad (Cleveland) picked me because the team that picks you sees something in you. It's an honor, because this is a business and they aren't just going to pick anybody. Now I'm going in to do the best I can. I'm very excited and relieved."
Gramatica, the first kicker chosen and the younger brother of Bucs star kicker Martin, began his collegiate career at Florida State but lost the job to eventual two-time All-America and first-round pick Sebastian Janikowski and transferred to USF.
Although analysts say he needs to improve his accuracy, he has a powerful left leg. He made a careerlong 63-yarder against Austin Peay in the season finale and 13 of 16 field goals inside 50 yards.
"I'm ecstatic," he said. "For a kicker to go in the fourth round ... Martin was a rare thing to go in the third. I'm very happy and right now, there's a sense of relief. They called me right before Anthony Henry got picked and they said, 'Two of your teammates went and you know what? You're next.' "
Arizona kicker Cary Blanchard isn't known for his leg strength and struggled with consistency. "There's no question he can follow in the footsteps of his older brother," Kiper said, "and be a very successful kicker."