The last time Virginia Tech wide receiver Danny Coale was on national television, he was diving in the left side of the end zone for an apparent one-handed touchdown grab in overtime against Michigan in the Sugar Bowl.
Not only was Coale selected Saturday night, in the fifth round by Dallas, via phone call from team owner Jerry Jones, he was the Cowboys’ first offensive pick of the draft. He will join Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, one of the most dynamic receiving tandems in the NFL.
With apparent openings on the depth chart below those two, Coale has just about everything a new draftee could want — a decent shot at a roster spot, and the likelihood of relatively inattentive defensive coverage whenever he does get on the field.
“I’m so thrilled. I’m so thrilled,” Coale, an Episcopal High graduate, said to Dallas Coach Jason Garrett in a team Web site audio clip of the Cowboys’ phone call to the four-year Tech starter. Coale was selected with the 17th pick of the fifth round, the 152nd pick overall.
“We love how you play,” Garrett told Coale. “We feel you can have a role on our football team and you’ve got great upside and you’re the right kind of guy.”
The only other local player taken on the third day of the draft Saturday, in the fourth through seventh rounds, was Virginia linebacker-defensive end Cam Johnson, a Gonzaga graduate, in the seventh round by San Francisco.
There were no players selected from the University of Maryland, the first time that has happened since 1994.
South Lakes High School graduate Thomas Mayo, a wide receiver who played at two Division II colleges, Concord and California University of Pennsylvania, signed as an undrafted free agent with the Oakland Raiders, according to his agent, J.I. Halsell.
Coale finished his college career as the second-leading receiver in Tech history with 165 catches for 2,658 yards. Fellow senior Jarrett Boykin, the leader in both categories with 184 catches for 2,884 yards, went undrafted Saturday.
The speedy 6-foot, 200-pound Coale, who has a knack for getting open, can play both the slot and outside receiver positions and has a reputation for being willing to run routes across the middle of the field.
The Lexington, Va., native, lightly recruited as a second-team All-Met as a senior in 2006, also could play special teams for the Cowboys.
Coale had visited and watched film with Garrett and other Dallas representatives at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in February.
“I didn’t know how interested they were,” Coale said in a conference call, “but I knew there was a little bit of interest there. . . . They said it’s an opportunity, a great opportunity for competition, and that’s all I really want is the opportunity to contribute to a team. It seems like a great fit in Dallas.”
The 49ers selected Virginia’s Johnson in the seventh and final round, the 237th player chosen overall. The 6-3, 268 pound Johnson, a former third-team basketball All-Met, is known for his ability to rush the passer.
Johnson led Virginia last season in sacks with four and was second in tackles for a loss with 11. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock had Johnson rated as the 19th best player in the second round, but Johnson fell to the seventh.
“The projections aren’t always true, as everybody knows,” Johnson said in a conference call. “I’m just ready to go to a team and compete. I’m happy that I’m with the 49ers right now and I’m ready to play.”
In San Francisco, Johnson will join another Washington area linebacker who played at Virginia, Hylton's Ahmad Brooks.
Staff writer Paul Tenorio contributed to this report.