Byron Cowart recorded 38 tackles and two interceptions in his lone season at Maryland. (Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

The New England Patriots selected Maryland’s Byron Cowart on Saturday in the fifth round of the NFL draft with the 159th overall pick.

The defensive lineman from Tampa played at Maryland for one season after first attending Auburn, then a junior college. But his year in College Park, where he started every game and recorded 38 tackles and two interceptions, helped Cowart salvage his career and give him this opportunity in the NFL.

Cowart headed to Auburn as a five-star prospect, ranked as the third-best overall player in his class and No. 1 at his position, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings.

He didn’t live up to the hype with the Tigers. In his time there, he recorded just 15 total tackles and never started a game. Three games into his junior season, Cowart transferred to Hillsborough Community College in Tampa.

“I thought I was going to be Jadeveon Clowney, get three-and-out, drafted top of the first round,” Cowart said at Maryland’s pro day, explaining how he thought he’d excel in his first three years in college and leave early for the draft. “But my journey was different. I still had to go through some adversity and grow as a player. I still think I’m first-round talent, but at this point, I just want the opportunity to get drafted and then play in the league four, five years.”

Cowart, who joins former Terp J.C. Jackson with the Patriots, became the second Maryland player selected in this year’s draft, following safety Darnell Savage Jr., who was chosen 21st overall by the Green Bay Packers.

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