COLUMBIA — Will Franklin wasn’t waiting by the phone when the fourth round of the NFL Draft got under way. With the second day of the draft starting at 9 a.m. central time Sunday, he had other things on his mind.
“I was actually asleep in bed and I got the phone call,” he said. “It was an unknown number, and I was like, ‘Who could be calling me unknown, a reporter or a team?’”
The wake-up call turned out to be one of the best calls of Franklin’s life. On the other end was the Kansas City Chiefs, calling to let Franklin know that they wanted to select him with the 105th overall selection, making him the first Missouri player to be selected in this year’s draft.
“It feels great, it feels great,” he said. “It’s something that you grow up wishing that you can do, play college football in your home state and play professional ball in your home state. Luckily for me, I have two (teams) in my home state, so it’s a great feeling.”
Franklin now gets to play his home games in Arrowhead Stadium, where he experienced one of the greatest moments of his collegiate career — a win over Kansas to clinch the Big 12 North division last year.
Martin Rucker won’t get the chance to play in his home state this year. But after Franklin saw his name come up, it wasn’t long before Rucker knew where he was going. The Cleveland Browns picked Rucker six spots later, making him their second fourth-round choice of the day and ending a wait that lasted a little longer than Rucker expected.
“It felt really good to finally get my name off the board,” Rucker said. “It was nerve-wracking a little, but at the same time, I wouldn’t let it get to me. I thought that there was a shot that I could go in the second, and when that didn’t happen, I was like, ‘OK, that’s fine.’ When I woke up today, I was waiting around and watching the draft a little bit, but not really watching it because I didn’t want to get caught up in it again. I was just waiting on the phone call.”
When he got the phone call, he was surprised at who the team on the other end was. Rucker said he spoke to the Browns at the NFL scouting combine last month, but had little contact with them otherwise.
Rucker soon learned the surprise was mutual. Browns coach Romeo Crennel told him that Cleveland, who had no picks in the draft’s first three rounds, did not expect him to be there when the Browns finally got a chance to make a pick.
After getting selected, the two players reacted in different ways. Franklin, who was still just waking up, took a shower and said that he hadn’t had a celebration yet, other than sharing the moment with his family. Rucker said that once it became clear a general manager was on the line with him, he knew the celebration was coming.
“Everybody in the house was really happy,” Rucker said. “They could tell by the way the person was talking. I was still on the phone when it came on the screen, and everybody just blew up.”
Both men said the chance to spend the moments with their families made it special.
“I remember when my brother (Mike) had that moment, and I’ve been waiting for mine,” Rucker said. “He told me the morning before he retired, ‘I love you, little bro, now I’m passing the torch on to you,’ Now it’s my job to carry it with the utmost respect, determination and hard work as he did.”
Franklin said it was overwhelming to be able to share the moment with his mother and his daughter, as well as several friends.
“It’s the best,” he said. “To get the chance to do something as amazing as what I’ve done, it’s a great feeling to do it with your family.”
Both Rucker and Franklin think they fell into good situations. Franklin goes to a team that needs help at wide receiver because it returns very little production at the position. Among current Chiefs receivers, only Dwayne Bowe came was close to 1,000 yards last season, giving the player known as Helicopter a chance to make an early impact.
“My chances are really high,” he said. “I’m going to go in and do whatever is possible to help the offense continue to develop good chemistry. I want to add on to it.”
Rucker might not have as high a chance to play right away with Pro Bowler Kellen Winslow already playing tight end for the Browns, but with Derek Anderson under center for Cleveland, Rucker will find himself in a good offense whenever he steps on the field.
“I think it’s a tremendous opportunity,” Rucker said. “They play in a really good offense for me to showcase my skills. Also, there’s a couple guys that are already there who will be really good for me to learn from.”
Rucker will have a few familiar faces around him in Browns training camp. Agent Ron Slavin confirmed a few minutes after the draft that cornerback Darnell Terrell, who was projected to go in the sixth round but went undrafted, had agreed to join the Browns as an undrafted free agent. A couple hours later, agent Shane Mecham said running back Tony Temple would also be in the Browns’ rookie camp.
Left tackle Tyler Luellen was the next undrafted Tiger to go, joining the San Diego Chargers. His former linemate, center Adam Spieker, is also heading to California, coming to an agreement with the Oakland Raiders. Both moves were confirmed by the players’ agents, Tim Rogers and James Selmer respectively.
Shortly after, defensive tackle Lorenzo Williams signed with the Baltimore Ravens. Agent David Hardin called the situation a good one for Williams.
“They said he was the only defensive tackle they were going to sign, and they didn’t draft one,” Hardin said.