Sunday, June 16, 2024

Three Spartans taken in NFL Draft

April 23, 2001

After two long days and six rounds of watching other players’ names run across their TV screens on the 2001 NFL Draft show on ESPN, three graduating MSU football players finally saw what they were waiting for Sunday.

Senior cornerback Renaldo Hill was drafted in the seventh round as the 202nd pick to the Arizona Cardinals, just 15 spots before the New York Jets selected his teammate, senior center Siitupe Peko, as the 217th pick. Senior linebacker T.J. Turner went as the 239th pick to the New England Patriots.

Both Hill and Peko watched the draft at their homes with family. Turner, a 6-foot-2, 250-pound linebacker, was New England’s 10th draft pick and could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Hill, Arizona’s ninth overall pick, said he passed the two sleepless days trying to keep his mind off of his football future by playing video games.

“I was doing fine,” Hill said. “But when it started getting to the later rounds, I was kind of worried. My agent took me through all the possible situations, and the worst was free agency. I knew a lot of teams would still take me there, but I still wanted to see my name across the screen.”

As the draft wound down Sunday, Hill said teams began calling to tell him they would pick him up as a free agent. But a few minutes after the last one came, the Cardinals finally called with the good news.

“The Cardinals called and said, ‘You’re our man,” Hill said. “It seems like the Lord is answering all of my prayers.”

As a Cardinal, Hill will be reunited with former MSU defensive back coach Kevin Ramsey.

Ramsey came to MSU from Georgia in February for a few weeks before taking a defensive coaching job with Arizona.

Although he never actually coached him, Hill said he met with Ramsey before he left MSU and is excited he finally has a chance to work with him.

“It just seems like God put me there,” Hill said. “He wanted (Ramsey) to coach me, and He wanted me to play for him.”

Hill will head to Arizona in the first week of May for a mini-camp, he said. At camp, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound Hill said he hopes he can compete for a vacant starting cornerback position.

“I have the chance to go right in there and contribute,” Hill said. “They run a lot of four-receiver sets so I have a chance to go in and play if I work hard.”

As Hill talked to his agent on the phone, he saw former teammate Peko’s name cross his screen. And 20 minutes after the New York Jets called Peko, its sixth draft pick, on Sunday, he said it still hadn’t quite sunk in.

“My family was more excited than I was,” said Peko, a 6-foot-4, 300-pound center. “I wasn’t really thinking about it.”

Peko will head to a mini-camp next week, where he said he’s not sure what to expect.

“I’m excited, but I’ll probably be kind of nervous when I get there,” he said.

Lions

Matt Millen’s first two picks as the Detroit Lions’ president may not excite many people, but they address huge holes on the offensive line.

The Lions picked Michigan offensive tackle Jeff Backus with the 18th pick and Nebraska center Dominic Raiola in the second round, with the 50th pick.

Detroit moved up to draft Texas defensive tackle Shaun Rogers in the second round with the 61st overall choice, by trading its third- and fourth-round choices to the New York Giants.

The Lions will likely move Backus, Stockar McDougle or Aaron Gibson to guard.

The Lions also took at (148) Scotty Anderson, WR, Grambling, (149) Mike McMahon, QB, Rutgers and (173) Jason Glenn, LB, Texas A&M.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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