TAMPA — And on the third day, Aaron Murray’s name was finally called.
The NFL draft process might have seemed interminable. But ultimately for Murray, it could be worth the wait.
Murray, the former Plant High quarterback who was the SEC’s all-time leading passer at the University of Georgia, was selected in the fifth round (163rd overall) by the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday.
It was a far cry from the first-round status that was floated in 2012, when Murray considered foregoing his senior year, or even last season, when his status was thrown into doubt following a torn ACL in his left knee.
Murray, 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, has proclaimed himself completely healthy and said he will face no limitations entering the offseason workouts or training camp. If that’s the case, Murray has seemingly landed in an ideal location.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid is known for developing quarterbacks, even those without a big reputation or lofty draft status. The Chiefs have Alex Smith, once the draft’s No. 1 overall pick with the 49ers who has discovered a career renaissance in Kansas City. The Chiefs are discussing a long-term contract with Smith, who is backed up by Chase Daniel, a dual-threat player who was an All-American at Missouri.
“I’m just excited to get into that QB room, get to know the guys and learn from them,’’ Murray said. “(Reid) does a tremendous job with quarterbacks.’’
Murray said he felt great about being selected by the Chiefs, who met with him for nearly two hours after his pro-day performance at Athens, Ga.
“The scheme that they were doing at Georgia was the same as they were doing up there,’’ said Murray, who watched the draft proceedings with his family in Tampa. “It was a great fit.’’
It’s a fit on and off the field, according to the Chiefs’ brass.
“Aaron is a phenomenal leader,’’ said Chiefs assistant director of college scouting Dom Green, who highlighted Murray’s accuracy, particularly on deep passes. “He’s the type of guy his teammates rally around. He’s just an overall very competitive player. He understands a lot of our verbiage and the concepts that we have here.’’
Plant coach Robert Weiner said he’s convinced that Murray will have a lengthy and productive NFL career.
“The NFL does a lot of homework on these guys, and I know Aaron’s qualities will have great value in the league,’’ Weiner said before the draft. “I can see very clearly that whoever gets him will quickly learn that they have acquired a great asset.
“After all those guys pass on him, I think in time people will say, ‘What is it that we were evaluating when we took all these guys in front of him?’ Aaron has enjoyed success at every level, and I fully expect that to happen in the NFL.’’
The other former Plant prospect, Florida State University running back James Wilder Jr., who declared for the draft after his junior season, was not picked. But Wilder is expected to sign as an undrafted free agent.
Meanwhile, University of South Florida defensive end Aaron Lynch, who became an All-American Athletic Conference player in his only season with the Bulls after transferring from Notre Dame, was a fifth-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers, where USF program patriarch Jim Leavitt is the linebackers coach.
Lynch described himself as a “first-round talent (who) made some mistakes in my past,’’ but added, “I’m versatile, so I can do whatever they want me to do.’’