The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



5 Irish picked in draft

Andrew Soukup | Monday, April 26, 2004

Courtney Watson never had a one-on-one interview with the New Orleans Saints and never talked to their coaching staff on a significant basis.So you’ll pardon the linebacker if he was surprised when he and his family, watching from Sarasota, Fla., saw his name pop up when the Saints picked him in the second round of the weekend’s 2004 NFL Draft.”It was starting to get long, because I wasn’t sure how many teams were going to pick a linebacker at this spot in the round,” he said Saturday in a statement the Saints released. “It was an eight-hour marathon anyway. It seemed to take forever for the pick to come.”Watson was one of five former Irish seniors who were selected over the weekend. Running back Julius Jones was the first to hear his name called, as the Dallas Cowboys selected him with the 11th pick in the second round. Then New Orleans picked Watson with the round’s 28th pick.Sunday, safety Glenn Earl went to Houston with the 24th pick of the fourth round. Two rounds later, the Texans also selected cornerback Vontez Duff with the fifth pick of the sixth round.Jim Molinaro, the final Irish player to be drafted, was picked with the 15th pick of the sixth round by the Washington Redskins.The five Irish players drafted is the lowest number since 2000, when only Jarious Jackson was drafted. But the Irish haven’t had at least two players drafted in the first two rounds since 1997.One of Saturday’s more mild surprises came with Jones’ selection, who some experts had rated behind other running backs still available (including former Florida State running back Greg Jones and Oregon State back Steven Jackson). But Dallas was impressed with what they saw as Jones’ ability to play a significant role early and his quickness.”He’s got the size to get it done and was durable in college,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “There is no reason to think that he can’t become a full-time back.”Then the Saints surprised Irish fans even more by picking Watson in the second round – even though some analysts thought it would be a triumph for the Irish linebacker to get picked in the third round. Watson was the fourth inside linebacker to be picked.”A lot of times you eliminate things when you draft guys; if you get a tough guy, he’s not always a fast guy, or a tough or fast guy isn’t always instinctive,” Saints director of player personnel Rick Mueller said. “To a certain degree, this guy has a little bit of everything. I think all around, he’s a good player with versatility and a lot of things we’re looking for.”