Originally published April 26, 2009
The beauty of it is no matter how long it took, it was worth the wait.
And then, the ball got rolling.
Running back Donald Brown topped the list of a record four Huskies taken Saturday when the Indianapolis Colts used the 27th pick to make him the first UConn player ever selected in the first round.
"It's an honor," Brown said, wearing a UConn T-shirt while ESPN cameras did live look-ins at his home in New Jersey. "There will be more first-round draft picks coming from the UConn program real soon."
Joining Brown were cornerback Darius Butler, who went to the Patriots in the second round (41st), offensive tackle Will Beatty (60th to the Giants) and Cody Brown (63rd to the Cardinals), a defensive end in college but likely an outside linebacker in the pros.
"All four of those guys coming out of that Connecticut program, that's a great job [UConn coach] Randy Edsall has done," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said on ESPN.
The Huskies had six players in the league before Saturday's draft, but no more than two had been picked in one draft (2008, 2005, 1962 and 1947).
"Watching the draft with my wife [Eileen] and my son [Corey]," Edsall said, "you know when they showed there [on television] toward the end of the draft . . . they showed USC with five [picks] and they show us and a couple other teams with three. And then we end up getting a fourth one in there. I mean, geez, that just says a lot about the efforts of those players and the coaches. It's hard to describe it."
Alfred Fincher in 2005 was the Huskies' highest pick when he went in the third round, 82nd overall - that is until Brown. The nation's leading rusher (160.2 yards a game) helped bring legitimacy to the program with an outstanding 2008 season, his first as a full-time starter.
"Once that phone rang . . . I didn't recognize the area code," Brown said by phone after his selection. "I was like, who? . . . It was Coach [Jim] Caldwell and he asked me if I was ready to be an Indianapolis Colt, and I said, 'Yep, I'm ready to go.' "
Brown, the Big East Offensive Player of the Year and picked on just about everybody's All-America team, was surprised the Colts took him since he didn't work out for them, but his representatives told him to be aware of the Colts.
"Big surprise," said Brown, who had 18 touchdowns last season.
The Huskies' first-round run began and ended with Brown. The Patriots and a few other teams were believed to be interested in Butler, but when the Patriots kept wheeling and dealing their trade position, they ultimately landed out of the first round.
When they did finally pick, they took safety Patrick Chung out of Oregon 34th overall.
Then they took Boston College defensive tackle Ron Brace at 40 before taking Butler at 41.
"It was crazy," Butler said on a conference call. "I waited longer than I expected. I slipped past where I was expected to go, but it's a great opportunity to go on the first day of the draft to a great team, and I'm looking forward to going there and doing my thing."
Butler said he spoke with Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft after his selection. He is expected to be introduced to the media in New England on Thursday.
"He had an excellent workout at UConn [Pro Day, March 25]," Belichick said. "High quality kid, smart kid, a very good understanding of the defense."
Butler, a quarterback in high school who played some receiver for the Huskies this year, said one of the Patriots coaches mentioned playing receiver. Butler, who is 5 feet 10, said he doubts he will end up there, but will go anywhere he is told.
"I was a little nervous [as the draft wore on], but I'm just happy for the opportunity," he said.
Butler finished eighth all-time in interceptions (10), returning two for touchdowns.
Beatty said he hadn't worked out for the Giants and had become antsy when the first round ended. In fact, he said, he stopped watching the draft for a while and began talking to friends when the Giants called.
"It was an experience I don't ever want to go through again," Beatty said, laughing. "But I'm glad I got picked."
Cody Brown couldn't be reached for comment.
"I'm sure he's talking to a lot of people. I talked to him briefly," his agent Nate Haber said. "And he was very excited, as I'm sure you can imagine."