A longer-than-anticipated wait ended Saturday for Hassan Ridgeway and Andrew Billings, a pair of NFL-bound defensive tackles with local connections who envisioned being more than fourth-round picks in the 2016 NFL Draft.
But that is where Ridgeway, a former Texas player and Mansfield High School graduate, and Billings, an All-America performer from Baylor, wound up hearing their names called on the final day of the draft in Chicago. Both players vowed to use their extended stays on the clock as motivation after joining the NFL as picks No. 116 (Ridgeway to the Indianapolis Colts) and No. 122 (Billings to the Cincinnati Bengals).
Ridgeway, the 15th defensive tackle taken, anticipated being a second-round pick. But he dropped amid scouts’ reservations about his durability and work ethic. Billings, the 16th defensive tackle to hear his name called, hoped to go in the first round but plummeted because of concerns about his pass-rush abilities and lack of lateral movement.
“You always want to go as high as possible. But it doesn’t matter what round. It only matters if you make it,” Ridgeway said in a phone interview. “And I’ve made it. I’m in the NFL. Words can’t even describe how excited I am.”
Billings said the wait to hear his name called “seemed like forever” but will be something he uses as emotional fuel with the Bengals after finishing his Baylor career with 107 tackles, 30.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks. Ridgeway, the Longhorns’ lone draftee, has adopted a similar approach in regard to those who question his work ethic and durability.
“That’s something I’m going to prove that I can do,” said Ridgeway, who finished his college career with 92 tackles and 9.5 sacks. “When I do that, they won’t be able to say it anymore.”
Another motivator for Ridgeway is becoming the third member of a group of draftees from the Mansfield school district that also included Washington Redskins receiver Josh Doctson (TCU, Mansfield Legacy) and Seattle Seahawks offensive guard Rees Odhiambo (Boise State, Mansfield Legacy).
“It’s great to be able to come from a place that has been able to produce a lot of talent,” Ridgeway said. “I want to represent Mansfield in a great way.”
Oklahoma cornerback Zack Sanchez, a Keller Central graduate, joined a trio of Carolina Panthers draftees seeking to fill the void left by departed standout Josh Norman, a Washington Redskins free-agent signee last week.
Sanchez, a fifth-round pick, will battle fellow cornerback draftees Daryl Worley and James Bradberry for playing time this season.
“I am here to compete with anybody,” Sanchez said after his selection. “If I was the first or the last corner taken, I just want to prove myself to show the coaches that I belong on the field.”
Texas A&M punter Drew Kaser surfaced Saturday as a sixth-round pick by the San Diego Chargers, the first of two punters selected. He will be reunited with Chargers kicker Josh Lambo, a former A&M teammate.
Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman, arrested earlier this month and charged with sexual assault, went undrafted.
Also unpicked was Texas running back Johnathan Gray, the former Aledo standout rehabilitating from Achilles tendon surgery in January. For Texas, this year’s one-player draft class (Ridgeway) means the school has produced six total selections over the course of the past three drafts.
Final-day draftees with local connections
A look at Saturday selections in the 2016 NFL Draft of players with connections to Big 12 schools, Texas colleges or Texas high schools:
101. Dallas: Charles Tapper, DE, Oklahoma
113. Chicago: Nick Kwiatkowski, LB, West Virginia
116. Indianapolis: Hassan Ridgeway, DT, Texas
122. Cincinnati: Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
129. Cleveland: Derrick Kindred, FS, TCU
141. Carolina: Zack Sanchez, CB, Oklahoma
143. Oakland: DeAndre Washington, RB, Texas Tech
153. Philadelphia: Wendell Smallwood, RB, West Virginia
159. Houston: K.J. Dillon, S, West Virginia
164. Philadelphia: Halapoulivaati Vaitai, OT, TCU
167. Arizona: Marqui Christian, SS, Midwestern State
168. Cleveland: Spencer Drango, OG, Baylor
171. Seattle: Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas
179. San Diego: Drew Kaser, P, Texas A&M
183. Tampa Bay: Devante Boyd, OLB, Oklahoma
186. Miami: Jakeem Grant, WR, Texas Tech
188. Minnesota: David Morgan, TE, UTSA
192. Buffalo: Kolby Listenbee, WR, TCU
210. Detroit: Jimmy Landes, LS, Baylor
214. New England: Elandon Roberts, ILB, Houston
215. Seattle: Joey Hunt, C, TCU
217. Dallas: Rico Gathers, TE, Baylor
229. Pittsburgh: DeMarcus Ayers, WR, Houston
235. NY Jets: Lac Edwards, P, Sam Houston State