Brandon Gibson’s months of frustration and personal loss – and then an agonizing weekend of waiting – ended gloriously Sunday when Washington State’s star receiver became the state’s only collegian selected in this year’s NFL draft.
The Cougars’ career leader in receiving yards went to the Philadelphia Eagles in the sixth round on Sunday, at No. 194 overall. He will travel east for a minicamp with the team later this week.
“I’m excited to be an Eagle,” Gibson told the team’s Web site during a family draft party attended by his mother, two uncles and a sister.
He immediately played the role of respectful rookie, calling Philadelphia’s star quarterback Donovan McNabb “Mr. McNabb.”
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Central Washington quarterback Mike Reilly and tight end Jared Bronson were trying to become the first players selected from the NCAA Division II school since the NFL draft was reduced to 12 rounds in 1991, but neither got drafted. Both were hoping to sign free-agent contracts with an NFL team as of Sunday night.
Washington had no one drafted for the second consecutive year. Center Juan Garcia was also hoping late Sunday for a free-agent contract and tryout.
Washington State has had at least one player drafted in each of the past 15 years.
Gibson, from Rogers High School in Puyallup, contemplated entering the draft last year as a junior, after three stellar seasons in Washington State’s pro-style offense. He said Philadelphia showed interest in him then.
He was an honorable mention All-Pacific-10 Conference selection last season for a Cougars team that finished 2-11 while having troubles adjusting to the new, no-huddle, spread offense of first-year coach Paul Wulff. Gibson finished his WSU career with 2,756 yards receiving. He is second on the Cougars’ career list with 182 catches.
“It was kind of hard; I didn’t play to the best of my abilities. I was frustrated,” Gibson said Sunday of his senior season.
Then his father died in January.
“I was kind of really messed up,” he said.
When he got to the postseason Senior Bowl all-star game, Gibson pulled a hamstring. He missed the important showcase for NFL scouts and a chance to show them his speed.
“It’s definitely been rough. Been through a lot of steps – family-wise and also with my injury at the Senior Bowl,” Gibson said.
“All that really goes out the door now, because I’ve got the opportunity to play football.”
Gibson doubted he would get that chance as the weekend dragged on and the agony of waiting for a call from a team grew.
“I didn’t think I was going to have an opportunity to play or get drafted,” he said, adding with a chuckle that, “St. Louis gave me a call at the end of the fifth round, to see if I was still alive.”
Best friends both Steelers
They were teammates in Pop Warner and high school, best friends who planned to attend college together before a coaching change intervened. When it became evident that both would be NFL draft picks, they kept wondering where each would go.
How about to the same team on the same round, and to the Super Bowl champions no less?
Mike Wallace and Keenan Lewis are together again in the NFL – just as they were when they lined up as kickoff returners at O. Perry Walker High in New Orleans. Wallace and Lewis were drafted 12 picks apart in the third round by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The first person Wallace called when the Steelers chose the Mississippi wide receiver was his best buddy Lewis, the Oregon State cornerback. So imagine Wallace’s surprise when, a few minutes later, Lewis called back to say he was going to Pittsburgh, too.
A week after he was badly hurt in a car crash, LSU receiver Demetrius Byrd was drafted Sunday by the San Diego Chargers. Byrd was hospitalized in critical but stable condition after a car crash last week in Miami. … Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree, taken No. 10 overall by San Francisco, was at the 49ers’ team headquarters Sunday and saw the team’s new uniforms, which look a lot like the team’s uniforms from their Super Bowl glory days. San Francisco is moving full-time to a modified version of the cherry-red throwback jerseys they’ve worn twice each season over the past few years. … Receiver Hines Ward signed his five-year contract extension, expected to be worth $22 million, with the Steelers.
Years the Huskies and Cougars did not have a player selected in the NFL draft since 1960:
No Huskies drafted
2009, 2008, 2003, 1960
No Cougars drafted
1994, 1991, 1977, 1971, 1963, 1962