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Penn State’s Kalen King calls long draft wait a humbling experience

The stunning fall from a potential first-round pick to being taken near the end of the NFL draft will motivate Kalen King, he said Saturday night.

The Green Bay Packers selected the Penn State cornerback in the seventh round with the 255th overall pick, the third-to-last choice in the draft.

“The experience I got the past three days, it was nothing but a humbling experience for me,” King said on a conference call with Packers reporters. “I’m going to use it as fuel to the fire.

“There’s been a lot of doubters in my ear. There’s been a lot of doubters (about) me the last couple months. I know what I’m capable of and I’m ready to show the world.”

King was one of four Nittany Lions drafted Saturday, giving them eight in the seven rounds. Tight end Theo Johnson was selected in the fourth round by the New York Giants, center Hunter Nourzad in the fifth round by the Kansas City Chiefs and cornerback Daequan Hardy in the sixth round by the Buffalo Bills.

Penn State tight end Theo Johnson is drafted in the fourth round by the New York Giants. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)
Penn State tight end Theo Johnson is drafted in the fourth round by the New York Giants. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

It was the seventh straight year that Penn State has had at least five players drafted. The only other such stretch in program history came from 1978-84.

Earlier in the draft, offensive tackle Olu Fashanu went to the New York Jets in the first round with the 11th pick; defensive end Chop Robinson to the Miami Dolphins in the first round with the 21st pick; offensive tackle Caedan Wallace to the New England Patriots in the third round; and defensive end Adisa Isaac to the Baltimore Ravens in the third round.

Much of the attention Saturday was focused on King, how far he had slipped and if he would be drafted at all.

He was a second-team All-American in 2022 when he led the Big Ten with 18 pass breakups and had three interceptions. Last year, he was named to the All-Big Ten second team even though he didn’t have an outstanding season.

His stock plummeted when he ran a 4.68 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.

The Packers began the draft needing to fill holes in their secondary and selected three safeties but no cornerbacks until they took King.

In the days leading up to the draft, King was projected as a fifth-round pick by NFL Network analyst Chad Reuter and wound up being the 34th and last cornerback drafted.

“Honestly, I feel like this whole experience definitely was one of the toughest things I have had to endure in my life,” King said. “I felt like today was a blessing and a curse. Even though I didn’t get drafted where I wanted to, I felt like God made the right choice for me.

“I feel like I’m in a place where I’m supposed to be and I’m happy that I got my name called.”

It didn’t take long Saturday for Johnson to hear his name called. The Giants took him with the seventh pick of the fourth round and the 107th choice overall.

He was the fifth tight end selected after he caught 34 passes for 341 yards and seven touchdowns last season. He helped improve his stock with his performance at the combine, where he ran a 4.57 in the 40, the second-fastest among tight ends.

He received a call Saturday from former Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, who spent the past six seasons with the Giants before signing with the Philadelphia Eagles. He might have an opportunity to play quickly because veteran tight end Darren Waller is contemplating retirement.

“I can’t wait to get it started,” Johnson said. “I’m so excited. You guys are gonna get everything out of me. …I give defenses a real problem. I’m capable of being a tight end you can’t take off the field.”

Nourzad spent the last two seasons at Penn State after transferring from Cornell and was the sixth center selected. He was named to the All-Big Ten second team last season. The Chiefs made him the 24th pick of the fifth round and the 159th pick overall.

Penn State had three offensive linemen drafted for the first time since 1996.

“Hunter Nourzad is a football coach’s dream,” Penn State offensive line coach Phil Trautwein said in a statement released by the university. “He’s focused, determined and takes pride in everything he does. His preparation is second to none.

“He would thrive in any NFL building. I couldn’t be happier for him.”

The Bills took Hardy with the 43rd pick of the sixth round and the 219th choice overall. Hardy mostly played nickel back at Penn State and became a dangerous punt returner, running back two punts for touchdowns against Massachusetts.

“I am so happy for him,” Penn State cornerbacks coach Terry Smith said. “He is a player who had to work against his size when he got here, but he has so many skills that allowed him to overcome his size and be the special player that he is.”

Two other Penn State players signed with NFL teams as undrafted free agents.

Linebacker Curtis Jacobs, who was projected to be drafted as early as the fourth round, signed with Kansas City. Safety Keaton Ellis signed with the Tennessee Titans. Running back Trey Potts received a minicamp invitation from the Chiefs.

Source: Berkshire mont

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