For hours yesterday afternoon, Bruce Perry watched on television as the NFL conducted the second day of its annual college draft. College players were picked one after another, but Perry's name never popped onto the screen.
"Yeah, I was getting a little worried," the former Maryland tailback said.
Perry waited through the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds before his hometown team, the Philadelphia Eagles, took him with the 41st pick in the seventh and final round. He was preceded by 241 players. Just 13 were chosen after him.
But no matter the delay, Perry said he's just happy to get his NFL career started, a sentiment echoed by the four other players drafted yesterday from area colleges: Leon Joe and Jeff Dugan of Maryland and Ernest Wilford and Nathaniel Adibi of Virginia Tech.
"I'm having a great day today," said Wilford, a wide receiver selected in the fourth round by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In 2001, Perry became the first non-senior to win the ACC's offensive player of the year award after a breakout sophomore season that included 1,242 rushing yards. In two seasons since, however, he endured a host of injuries that often kept him off the field and limited him to a combined 1,054 yards.
Perry theorized he would have been drafted higher if teams hadn't been concerned about his injury history, but his lack of size also could have been a factor. Listed at 5 feet 10 during his college career, he says he's really 5-9. The NFL says he's a quarter-inch shy of 5-8.
"They always chop me down a little bit, but that's cool," Perry said. "I don't think that played a role in anything, because you don't want a tall running back. He's not going to be able to hide behind linemen. . . .
"I know my capabilities. I know what I can do. It's like, man, if I was 100 percent, I could do a whole lot more. . . . This fall for me, I'm just going to go in with the mind-set that, hey, everything's in the past now."
Joe, a linebacker taken in the fourth round by the Chicago Bears, said Perry will be fine once he gets to training camp and has a chance to prove himself.
"A lot of guys are doubting him because of his last two years," Joe said. "He had injury problems and stuff like that, but I think once he gets into a camp, they'll realize he's one of the better backs coming out this year."
Joe has high hopes for himself as well. A three-year starter for the Terps, the Fort Washington native was second on the team last season with 112 tackles. He was the 16th pick in the fourth round (112th overall).
"I don't think it's even sunk in with me just yet," he said. "I'm just so happy that it's over with, just the whole process of trying to get in. I'm just happy it's over with and I'm ready to play again."
Wilford, the most productive receiver in Virginia Tech history, went to the Jaguars eight spots after Joe. With a 6-3 frame, great hands and leaping ability but average speed, he is expected to be more of a possession receiver than a vertical threat.
"I think [my deep speed] is the biggest question right now," Wilford acknowledged, "but if you look at the things I did at Virginia Tech, I got deep and then when the ball was thrown in the air, I was able to jump over most defenders because they either were shorter than me or I could out-jump them. I feel like I have the same capabilities of doing that in the NFL. I think I'm going to be a big asset to the program."
Jacksonville acquired the pick it used on Wilford in a trade yesterday with the Baltimore Ravens, who received veteran wideout Kevin Johnson. The Jaguars also selected wide receiver Reggie Williams from the University of Washington with the ninth overall pick.
Adibi was selected with the 13th pick in the fifth round (145th overall) by the Pittsburgh Steelers, who will convert him from defensive end to outside linebacker in their 3-4 defensive scheme.
"I don't think it will be too tough," Adibi told reporters in a conference call. "For me, it's a comfortable position honestly."
Dugan will join former Maryland teammates E.J. Henderson and Shaun Hill with the Minnesota Vikings. The strong tight end was the 19th pick in the seventh round (220th overall). A four-year starter for the Terps, Dugan had only 55 career receptions but was perhaps the best blocking tight end in the draft.
Two other former Terps signed free agent contracts: quarterback Scott McBrien with the Green Bay Packers and wide receiver Jafar Williams with the Washington Redskins.