When Herman Redden was not selected in the first six rounds of the National Football League college draft Tuesday, the standout cornerback for Howard University sat in his dormitory room and tried to forget about pro football.
"I talked to many scouts all year and I understood they were pretty high on me," said Redden, a four-year starter at Howard. "I saw several of my high school teammates picked in the first few rounds and I got a little anxious. When the first six rounds were over and I wasn't picked, I figured I wouldn't be picked at all."
But the call the 6-foot-2, 203-pound Sarasota, Fla., native had looked forward to for four years came at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday when the San Francisco 49ers called and informed Redden they had drafted him in the eighth round.
It was the first time a Howard football player had been selected in the college draft. In past years, a number of Howard players have made pro teams but were signed as free agents. Howie Williams, who played eight seasons (1962-69) with the Green Bay Packers, 49ers and the Oakland Raiders> was the first Bison to join the pro ranks. Among the other 11 who earned pro shots were Greg Butler, a starter last season with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League and Ron Mabra, now with the New York Jets.
"I realized the chances of a Howard player being picked at all were slim, so you have to sort of prepare yourself for the worst," said Redden. "It was a dream come true. But it's only a step in the door. It's a chance to show people Howard has good players. I know I've got to work to get the other foot in."
Redden's selection was not a surprise despite his lack of glowing statistics and honors. In four sessions, Redden intercepted only nine passes, three last season, and averaged four tackles per game. Redden, who has 4.5 speed in the 40, also returned punts and kickoffs for Howard.
"That goes to show the NFL knows what it's going. If you have the attributes they seek, they'll find you," said Howard Coach Doug Porter. "Herman has all the tools to be a good cornerback. I feel good about his being drafted. When I was at Grambling (assistant eight seasons), the players were more concerned over the round they were picked. This is a first at Howard, so you hope it serves as an incentive for the future players."
Redden summarized his senior year as "average but a little disappointing."
Actually, Redden was not very satisfied at his progress at Howard and felt he came away a little short changed.
"Coach Porter is a very good coach but he can't do everything," he said. "Coach (Bill) Moultrie is a track coach.
Redden credit Greg Butler with like a father to me but he just didn't teach me much about the game. That may hurt me a bit when I report to camp but I know I'll learn fast. I'll have to."
Redden credits Greg Butler with showing him the techniques of secondary play.
"I learned a lot from him.He knew the game," said Redden.
Butler, a 5-10, 180 pound safety, said Redden "is a good athlete and should've been drafted much higher.
"He was a freshman when I was a senior.It's tough breaking in from Howard. When I went from the Philadephia Bell (WFL) two years ago to the (Los Angeles) Rams, they didn't know what Howard was. They thought I was from Howard Payne (Tex.). Once he (Redden) learns the 49ers' plays and schemes, he'll do fine."
Redden will graduate next week with a degree in sociology-criminology.
"I realize football is a temporary thing", he said. "It lasts as long as your health holds out or your competitive nature.
"I accomplished what I set out to do at Howard. Now I'll see what the (pro) ball scene is like. I feel I may have an advantage. After all, I didn't get any national attention or big recognition.
"I accomplished what I set out to do within a few days, that'll change."