Malik Jefferson had to wait a little bit before his professional football dreams could come true.
But at pick No. 80 of the NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals ended the wait for the linebacker out Texas.
Coming into the draft, evaluators projected Jefferson as a second or third-round selection, which turned out to be relatively accurate.
Due to the four-game suspension of Vontaze Burfict to open the 2018 season, Cincinnati clearly had a need at linebacker.
During his time at Texas, Jefferson started as a middle linebacker but excelled when he moved to outside linebacker for his junior season. He is likely to play inside linebacker in the Bengals' 3-4 defensive scheme.
Coming out of Mesquite Poteet High School, the five-star linebacker was one of the top college prospects in the country.
After a terrific first season at Texas, he earned Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year honors. After dealing with concussion issues as a sophomore, he bounced back and produced a stellar junior campaign.
By the end of the 2016-2017 season, he had started all 12 games, recording a team-high 110 tackles, 10 for losses and four sacks. For his efforts, Jefferson was named the co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year (with Oklahoma defensive lineman Ogbonnia Okoronkwo).
Jefferson's training at APEC in Fort Worth under Bobby Stroupe clearly paid-off. At the 2018 NFL Combine, his time of 4.52 seconds in the 40-yard dash was third best of all the linebackers. His 27 reps on the bench press were second best. But despite his athleticism, some scouts noted that he had difficulties in pass coverage.