Of the 29 Big Ten conference players selected in the 2011 NFL Draft last weekend — none were former Gophers.
This comes as little surprise considering Minnesota’s abysmal 3-9 campaign in 2010 that resulted in the firing of head coach Tim Brewster.
Adam Weber, the Gophers starting quarterback for the last four seasons, was considered the most likely to be drafted. Weber is Minnesota’s all-time leader in passing yards (10,917), touchdowns (72) and attempts (1,594).
However, he also holds the record for most interceptions in school history with 51. It is likely Weber will be offered a chance to sign somewhere as an undrafted free agent, however with the current NFL lock-out he will have to wait.
“I talked to three teams during the draft and they said they are interested,” Weber said. “I know that there is enough interest and there are teams out there that would sign me through free agency. I just don’t know when that will be.”
Last year Minnesota fared slightly better with two players being drafted. Stand-out wide receiver Eric Decker went in the third round to the Denver Broncos, and in the fifth round, Nate Triplett was taken by the Minnesota Vikings.
Decker, Minnesota’s all-time leader in receptions (227) and receiving yards (3,119), worked out with ex-teammate Weber and gave him advice in preparation for the 2011 NFL draft.
“[Decker] is a great resource seeing that he’s in the [NFL],” Weber said. “He was with me during the draft, giving me support.”
This isn’t the first time Weber has had to deal with adversity. At Minnesota the 6-foot-3, 221-pound quarterback went through a revolving door of offensive coordinators, never allowing him to be truly settled.
“This is just another hurdle,” Weber said. “In football you’ve got to have a lot of confidence in yourself and weather a lot of storms.”
While former Gophers went undrafted, the Big Ten fared well. In addition to its 29 selections, the conference had six first-round picks from five different institutions, the highest being Lott Trophy winner J.J. Watt of Wisconsin. Since 1950 a mere eight Gophers have been chosen in the first round of the NFL draft. The most recent was running back Laurence Maroney, who was taken by the New England Patriots in 2006.
Next season, perennial powerhouse and five-time national champion Nebraska joins the Big Ten. The Cornhuskers were fourth among all NCAA schools this year with seven former players drafted. The Iowa Hawkeyes led the Big Ten with six picks over the three-day draft.
From 2001 to 2010, only 18 Gophers have been drafted. Worse yet, in the last four years, Minnesota has a meager four selections.
The last Gophers quarterback selected in the NFL draft? Cory Sauter, 13 years-ago.