One local product started the whole thing, but former Athens High School standout Joe Burrow wasn’t the only player within an hour’s radius of the Ohio Valley Publishing area enjoying the National Football League Draft process this past weekend.
Marshall University ended a 5-year selection drought as the Thundering Herd had a pair of players chosen Saturday during Day 3 of the 2020 NFL Draft, which was held virtually instead of in Las Vegas due to the COVID-19 shutdown.
The Herd hadn’t received a single selection in the NFL Draft since defensive back Darryl Roberts was chosen by the New England Patriots in the seventh round in 2015.
Marshall, however, had its fortunes change in Round 5 as, once again, New England used the 14th pick (159 overall) on kicker Justin Rohrwasser.
Defensive back Chris Jackson heard his name called two rounds later as the 4-year starting corner went with the 29th pick in the seventh round (243 overall) to the Tennessee Titans.
Rohrwasser and Jackson, collectively, become the seventh pair of MU players chosen in the same draft in school history. The 2003 trio of Byron Leftwich, Chris Crocker and Steve Sciullo last accomplished the feat.
The Green and White also had multiple draft picks in the 1939, 1958, 1989, 1998 and 2000 classes.
Rohrwasser was named the 2019 Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Year after connecting on 18-of-21 field goal tries and 35-of-36 extra-point kicks. Rohrwasser also booted 33 touchbacks on 62 kickoff attempts last fall.
Rohrwasser successfully booted three straight 53-yard field goal tries in the last seconds of a 26-23 Homecoming victory over Western Kentucky on Oct. 26 after WKU used a pair of pre-snap timeouts on the first two attempts. It was also Rohrwasser’s career long.
Rohrwasser also went 15-of-21 in field goal attempts and 44-of-46 in extra-point tries in 2018 after transferring in from Rhode Island. Thirty of Rohrwasser’s 71 kickoffs that season ended up resulting in touchbacks.
Jackson was a 4-time all-league recipient, including an All-Freshman selection in 2016. The Tallahassee (FL) native had 189 tackles and seven interceptions, including a 72-yard INT return for a score in the season opener against Miami (OH) back in 2017.
New England is responsible for four of Marshall’s last six NFL Draft selections. Jackson is the first MU player to ever be selected by the Tennessee Titans, including that franchise’s previous time as the Houston Oilers.
Marshall joined Conference USA mates Charlotte, Florida International and Louisiana Tech in churning out two selections apiece. Florida Atlantic and Southern Mississippi also produced a single pick, bringing the CUSA total to 10 for the weekend.
The SEC led all football conferences with 63 of the 255 total selections in the 2020 NFL Draft, including a modern draft record 14 picks from Louisiana State. Both Michigan and Ohio State followed the National Champions with 10 picks apiece.
The Big Ten (48), Pac 12 (32), ACC (27) and Big 12 (21) rounded out the top five spots, with the AAC (17) also finishing ahead of Conference USA in total selections. CUSA was also joined by the Mountain West with 10 total choices.
The Mid-American Conference had two total selections, one apiece from both Ball State and Miami of Ohio.
Ohio University did not have a player chosen for the second consecutive year, with linebacker Quentin Poling (Round 7, 227 overall) serving as the last Bobcat chosen back in 2018.
Marshall’s two selections matched the total produced by programs such as Michigan State, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, N.C. State, Stanford, Syracuse, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Southern California and even West Virginia.
The Herd also doubled the number of draft picks from other programs such as Boston College, Cincinnati, Florida State, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech.
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Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.