Surrounded by family and friends, former Georgia Tech All-American Jerry Attaochu’s wait finally ended around 8:30 p.m. Friday night. The Yellow Jackets’ all-time leading sack leader was selected by the San Diego Chargers with the 18th pick of the second round, the 50th overall.
Attaochu, watching the draft at a Hyattsville, Md.-area restaurant near his family’s home, released energy bottled up over the four-month pre-draft process in which Attaochu attended the Senior Bowl, tore his hamstring there, had to hurriedly rehab the injury to take part in Tech’s Pro Day in March, went to the NFL draft combine, aced his Pro Day and then took part in numerous private workouts and visits to various team headquarters.
“He was jumping up and shouting, ‘Let’s go to San Diego!’” Attaochu’s father, Paul, reported. “‘Everybody, let’s go to San Diego! We are coming!’”
Attaochu became the first defensive player recruited by Tech coach Paul Johnson to be drafted. Expected to be selected somewhere in the second round, Attaochu was taken by a team that was so eager to acquire him that they gave up the 57th and 125th overall picks to move up to the No. 50 slot. He joins a team that plays a 3-4 defense, meaning he’ll be playing the outside linebacker spot that he played at Tech for former defensive coordinator Al Groh for his first 2 1/2 years at Tech.
“We just felt we had to go get him,” Chargers general manager Tom Telesco said. “He brings a lot of energy to our defense.”
“Excellent pick by San Diego,” ESPN draft analyst Steve Muench wrote in a tweet. “Attaochu played with better strength and effort last year. Great bend coming off edge and will help pass rush.”
ESPN cameras were present to broadcast the scene from the Attaochu draft party, which included family, friends, his high school coach and members of the church that Attaochu’s parents founded recently. Paul and Comfort Attaochu were born and raised in Nigeria; Jerry moved to the United States as a boy.
“It’s an experience we’ve never had before,” Paul Attaochu said. “It’s like an American — how do I say? — baptism of publicity.”
Attaochu also was the first player taken from a Georgia school in this year’s draft. He is the first defensive player drafted from Tech since Derrick Morgan and Morgan Burnett were taken in the first and third rounds, respectively, in the 2010 draft.
Attaochu’s father said that San Diego was a favored destination of his son’s. It was evidently worth the wait. Some analysts thought he had an outside chance to be selected in the first round Thursday night, but was not taken.
“Then I thought, ‘Hey, how long are we going to wait again today?’” Paul Attaochu said.
The Attaochu party had to wait about an hour and a half after the draft resumed Friday night before hearing his name called.
“It’s overwhelming,” Paul Attaochu said.
San Diego had shown interest in him pre-draft, sending linebackers coach Joe Barry to visit with Attaochu.
Last year’s 50th pick, former Florida linebacker Jon Bostic, reportedly received a signing bonus of $1.2 million on a four-year contract worth $3.9 million from the Chicago Bears. Before the draft, Attaochu, who doesn’t own a car, said he wanted to get a car with his new income. He also wanted to address his mother’s driving situation. She has been driving a failing Mazda minivan, the same one that she used to ferry Jerry when he was growing up.
The draft concludes Saturday with rounds 4-7, which will be followed by the frantic signing of undrafted free agents. Tech has two possibilities to be selected in the final four rounds — defensive back Jemea Thomas and linebacker Brandon Watts.
Other players — including defensive linemen Euclid Cummings and Emmanuel Dieke, offensive linemen Jay Finch and Will Jackson and A-back Robert Godhigh — are hoping for a shot at the NFL, most likely as undrafted free agents.
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