Tajh Boyd has played home football games in Darling Stadium and Clemson's Death Valley. Now, he'll have a chance to play home games just a few miles from Manhattan as a member of the New York Jets.
Boyd, a Phoebus High alumnus and former quarterback at Clemson, joined Bruton High graduate and former Coastal Carolina running back Lorenzo Taliaferro as Peninsula natives to be selected on the final day of the draft. Joining them as last-day draftees were Virginia alums Brent Urban and Luke Bowanko, along with Virginia Tech alums Logan Thomas and Antone Exum.
Boyd, a 6-foot-1, 222-pound Hampton native, was selected in the sixth round by the Jets with the 213th overall pick. He's a freshly minted Jet along with Michael Vick, a Warwick High graduate and Tech product who was signed in March by the Jets to a one-year, $5 million contract, and who is expected to compete with incumbent starter Geno Smith.
"Mike was like a mentor to me throughout this whole process, and whether it was aiding me in my decision to come back to school my senior season or whether it was just to talk in general, it was great to get a chance to talk to him about all those different things," said Boyd in a teleconference with Jets reporters. "When I was a kid, he was my idol. To be in the same organization as him is going to be exciting."
Thomas, a 6-6, 248-pound quarterback, was chosen in the fourth round by the Arizona Cardinals with the 120th overall pick. Urban, a 6-7, 295-pound defensive tackle, also went in the fourth round, to the Baltimore Ravens with the 134th overall pick.
“I had a pretty good idea I had a chance to go to the Cardinals,” Thomas said in a teleconference with Cardinals media. “This is what I was hoping would happen. It just felt right from the very beginning. I couldn't have gone into a better situation.”
Taliaferro, a 6-foot, 229-pound Yorktown native, continued a busy fourth round for local products and players from U.Va. or Tech, going to Baltimore with the 138th overall pick.
After starting his college career at Lackawanna Junior College in Pennsylvania, he moved on to Coastal Carolina. He ran for 2,106 yards and 32 touchdowns in two seasons at Coastal Carolina, including 1,742 yards and 27 touchdowns on 276 carries in his senior season.
Exum, a 6-foot, 213-pound cornerback, was taken in the sixth round by the Minnesota Vikings with the 182nd overall pick. Bowanko, a 6-5, 293-pound center, went a little later in the sixth round, to the Jacksonville Jaguars with the 205th overall selection.
Former Tech defensive end James Gayle, a Bethel High alum, was projected to be selected in the draft, but he went undrafted. After the draft concluded, he tweeted that he was going to sign a contract with the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent, and that he thought he went undrafted because he played with a torn labrum as a senior.
Thomas was drafted ahead of former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray (fifth round), former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron (fifth round) and former Louisiana State quarterback Zach Mettenberger (sixth round) — all of whom were rated ahead of Thomas heading into the draft by most draft analysts.
In Arizona, Thomas will play for Coach Bruce Arians, who also is a former Tech quarterback. He played quarterback at Tech from 1972-74 before becoming a graduate assistant from '75-77 at Tech.
Urban, a native of Mississauga, Ontario, who is recovering from January ankle surgery, was recruited by former U.Va. coach Al Groh to play five-technique defensive end in Groh's 3-4 defensive alignment. “Five-technique” refers to a defensive end that lines up on the outside shoulder of offensive tackles. Though he played defensive tackle late in his career at U.Va., he could play defensive end in Baltimore.
“I first decided to go to Virginia in the first place because (the Cavaliers were) running a similar 3-4 defense … so yes, (five-technique is) a great spot for me, and I'm really happy I'm in Baltimore,” Urban told Ravens reporters.
Exum was considered a possible early-to-mid-round draft pick after his junior season at Tech, but an offseason knee injury before his senior season and an ankle injury in the midst of his senior year limited his production. After starting at safety as a sophomore, and at cornerback in a junior season that saw him earn second team All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors from the coaches and media, he played in just three games as a senior.
Bowanko was a team captain as a senior. He started at center and guard in his career. He could get a shot at both positions with the Jaguars, where former U.Va. offensive line teammate Austin Pasztor is on the roster.
“I feel like I bring a hard work ethic and determination that was bred into me at a young age,” Bowanko told Jaguars reporters. “I was going into today, no matter what the outcome was, I was hoping for a chance to get somewhere and compete and make the team better.”
Wood can be reached by phone at 757-247-4642.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun