LINCOLN — Nebraska was short on picks, but Chadron State got a rare selection as the NFL draft wound down Saturday.
After I-back Rex Burkhead was taken in the sixth round, safety Daimion Stafford was the only other former Husker drafted. Stafford went in the seventh round (No. 248 overall) to Tennessee.
Chadron State had offensive tackle Garrett Gilkey go between the two former Huskers. Cleveland took Gilkey in the seventh round at No. 227 overall.
Gilkey is only the third player drafted out of Chadron State and the first from the NCAA Division II school since receiver Don Beebe was taken in the third round by Buffalo in 1989.
“I really am at a loss for words because it’s a dream come true,” Gilkey said through Chadron State media relations. “I’m excited to see what opportunities God has planned for me in Cleveland.”
Stafford said in a teleconference with Titans news media members that he wasn’t disappointed in waiting until the seventh round. His selection marked the seventh time in the past nine years that NFL teams drafted at least one player out of the NU secondary.
“It happened the way it happened for a reason,” Stafford said. “I’m just excited to get out there and compete and play football.”
Stafford said his strength is probably playing the run, but he wants to improve on everything. The native of Norco, Calif., was the Huskers’ second-leading tackler with 96 last season, and he led the team with four interceptions.
“I always hustle to the ball,” he said. “Good things happen when you do. That’s what is always on my mind when I’m out there.”
Gilkey was a Division II All-American last season and a two-time All-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference pick. The 6-foot-6 318-pounder was invited to the NFL Combine in February.
Gilkey is from Sandwich, Ill., where Beebe was his high school coach.
Nebraska hadn’t waited until the sixth round for its first draft pick since tight end Jim McFarland was taken in the seventh in 1970. The two selections for the Huskers also were their fewest since having two in 1969 (the draft was shortened to its current seven-round format in 1994).
This also marked the third time in six years that Nebraska didn’t have a player go higher than the fifth round.
Among the Huskers who went undrafted, several agreed to free-agent contracts with teams. Among those confirming their agreements or announcing via Twitter were: tight end Kyler Reed to Jacksonville, tight end Ben Cotton to San Diego, linebacker Will Compton to Washington and defensive end Eric Martin to New Orleans.
Former NU kicker Brett Maher hadn’t yet reached a deal with a team Saturday night, said his agent, Rob Roche. The two-time All-Big Ten kicker attended the NFL Combine and was considered by most as the No. 3 kicker available in the draft (Caleb Sturgis of Florida and Dustin Hopkins of Florida State were both selected).
Roche last year represented Justin Tucker, the University of Texas kicker who went undrafted, signed in May with Baltimore and then had a standout rookie season as the Ravens won the Super Bowl.
Other Midlands players drafted Saturday:
» Iowa’s Micah Hyde, the 2012 Big Ten defensive back of the year, was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the fifth round with the 159th overall pick.
The first-team All-Big Ten pick had 78 tackles, 14 pass breakups, three fumble recoveries and an interception last season.
» Former Iowa State linebacker A.J. Klein was taken in the fifth round by the Carolina Panthers, while fellow Cyclone Carter Bykowski was picked in the seventh round by San Francisco.
Klein, the 2011 co-Big 12 defensive player of the year, returned four interceptions for touchdowns in his career, tying the NCAA record for linebackers.
Bykowski started every game at left tackle for Iowa State last season.