Three Louisville Cardinals Selected In NFL Draft's First Round

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

As of Thursday morning, Louisville had never had more than one of their players hear their name called in the first round of the same NFL Draft. On Thursday night, three Cardinals lived that dream.

First came Calvin Pryor, the hard-hitting junior safety who was gobbled up by the New York Jets with the No. 18 pick. Pryor is the type of in-the-box gap filler that Rex Ryan loves, but he also has enough range and versatility to demand time on the field right off the bat. It's no surprise, then, that Jets fans are overwhelmingly in favor of the pick.

The shocker came eight picks later, when AAC Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smith was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles at pick 26. Despite some gaudy numbers -- 14.5 sacks and four forced fumbles -- while playing defensive end last season, Smith was projected by approximately no one to be selected on the draft's opening night. The one team willing to take a flyer on the guy who came to Louisville as a quarterback was the Eagles, who showed a significant interest in Smith during the entire pre-draft process, and who stated repeatedly that they believed he could be a perfect fit at linebacker for their defensive scheme.

That put all eyes on Teddy Bridgewater, the former projected No. 1 pick who appeared poised to slip out of the first round completely. That changed at the final hour, when the Minnesota Vikings traded up to take Teddy with the pick originally belonging to the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. So now Teddy goes to the land of Richard Pitino and Gorgui Dieng, and he does so as a first round draft pick with a legitimate chance to see the field in his rookie season. Not a bad look when the other options were Jacksonville and Cleveland.

When the dust finally settled, Texas A&M was the only other program in America with as many first round selections as Louisville. Not a bad little evening for a Cardinal football program which hadn't had a player selected in the first or second round since 2009, and which had seen a total of just four players drafted between 2010-2013.

Congratulations to all three Cardinals, who are each incredibly deserving of this night and the life-changing days directly in front of them.

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