It didn’t matter that it happened in the final round, just that it happened.
The Indianapolis Colts picked former Bradwell Institute and Georgia State University offensive lineman Ulrick John in the seventh round Saturday during the 2014 NFL Draft. John is the first Liberty County resident to be drafted by an NFL team.
“After I got the call, it was just a really big relief,” John said immediately after being drafted. “It’s great and I am just really excited to have the opportunity to go out there and show them what I can do and compete for a spot on the team, whether it be as a starter or a backup.”
John signed with Georgia State during the program’s inaugural season in 2010 and saw action in four games as a true freshman. He displayed his athletic ability and football versatility during his sophomore year when he started at three different positions — left tackle, center and left guard — in the first five games of the season. He started in 10 of 11 games his junior year at left tackle. Last season, his senior year, John was honorable-mention All-Sun Belt Conference and started 11 games at left tackle.
John had several teams scouting him during the Georgia State pro day, including Seattle and the Colts. He said Colts line coach Joe Gilbert seemed impressed with his work ethic, hip movement and athleticism during pro day.
But as he sat at home during the draft, he wasn’t sure what was going to happen.
“It’s been really intense, especially towards the end of the draft,” he said. “I started getting calls from a bunch of teams talking about free agency … every time I would get a call, everyone was just on the edge of their seats. When I finally got a call from the Colts and they told me … I pretty much just broke down, and you could just feel the tension just leave the room.”
On Sunday morning, John headed to the Colts’ rookie camp.
“It was the best Mother’s Day present ever … I can’t even describe it … we’ve been planning this since he was 9 years old,” his mother, Jay J. Kesner, said. “It is amazing and I am speechless. He is my kid and this is just amazing.”
Kesner said a lot of credit goes to former BI coach Jim Walsh. “We owe the world to coach Jim Walsh,” she said. “He believed in Ulrick, and when he was just 10 years old, Walsh came to me and said ‘I want him when he gets to high school.’ He has been a mentor to Ulrick and helped him through a lot of problems in high school, and he brought the love of the game to Ulrick.”
Walsh, currently the head football coach at Peachtree High School in Dunwoody, said John has the right, lean build and is great on his feet and a hard-working kid.
“Any time that you see a kid get that opportunity … less than 1 percent of college athletes get a chance to play in the NFL … and for him to have that opportunity is a great accomplishment. I am so proud of him,” Walsh said.
John said he wasn’t aware that he would be the first county native to be drafted until former Bradwell assistant coach Jeff Miller told him when he visited the high school a few days ago to work out.
Miller said John deserves the opportunity.
“I am very happy for Ulrick and his family,” Miller said. “He has worked very hard to get where he is today.”
John already has his sights set high.
“Hopefully ... then in the next couple of years go to the Pro Bowl, Super Bowl and I would love to be in the Hall of Fame someday,” he said.
CBSSports.com graded the Colts’ selection of John as a B on a standard A-F grading system in its NFL Draft evaluation.