Former Maryland teammates Byron Cowart and Ty Johnson, who saw the trajectories of their respective college football careers start and end going in different directions, will begin their NFL careers on nearly the same plane after being drafted Saturday.
Cowart, a defensive lineman who was the top-rated high school prospect in the country in Florida but did little in two years at Auburn before transferring to Maryland last season, was taken by the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in the fifth round (No. 159 overall).
Johnson, a relatively obscure three-star prospect from Cumberland who wound up as the team’s top running back during his sophomore and junior years, was chosen in the sixth round by the Detroit Lions (No. 186 overall). Offensive tackle Derwin Gray was picked by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the seventh round (No. 219 overall).
It gave the Terps four players taken in the 2019 NFL draft, including safety Darnell Savage Jr., who like Johnson was an overlooked three-star prospect coming out of high school in Delaware and wound up being taken No. 21 overall by the Green Bay Packers in Thursday’s first round. It is the most Maryland players taken in the same draft since five Terps were picked in 2009.
Morgan State offensive tackle Joshua Miles (Western Tech) was picked by the Arizona Cardinals in the seventh round (No. 248 overall).
The 6-foot-5, 314-pound Miles was the first Morgan State player drafted since tight end Visanthe Shiancoe was taken by the New York Giants in the third round in 2003. Shiancoe played for four teams over 11 seasons, and also was briefly with the Ravens in 2013 but never played for them.
After barely playing at Auburn and being labelled a bust by many, the 6-foot-3, 298-pound Cowart had a solid year with the Terps, finishing with 38 tackles, including three sacks, to go along with a forced fumble. He was one of three Maryland players invited to the NFL scouting combine.
Johnson, whose production slipped as a senior because of the emergence of redshirt freshman Anthony McFarland Jr. and a calf injury that caused Johnson to sit out the last two games, was not invited to the combine but ran a blistering 4.26 seconds in the 40-yard dash on Maryland’s pro day.
As a sophomore at Maryland, Johnson broke a 55-year-old school record by averaging 9.1 yards per carry and rushed for 1,004 yards. He finished his career third in all-purpose yards (4,196), and fourth in rushing yards (2,635), kick return yardage (1,194) and 100-yard games (11).
Johnson was also considered one of Maryland’s top special teams players, both in returning kicks as well as blocking for others on returns and making tackles on kickoff cover and punt return units.
“It feels pretty good, I’m just here celebrating with my family now,” Johnson said in a telephone interview Saturday night. “I wasn’t going to work out, but my family convinced me not to work out. Just enjoying it.”
Perhaps the one surprise was that linebacker Tre Watson, who as a graduate transfer last season led the Terps and the Big Ten in tackles (114) while being named first-team All-Big Ten by the media, was not selected.