Playing in the same secondary that produced Thorpe Award winners and a Heisman Trophy finalist, cornerback Ron Brooks was often overlooked at LSU.
Saturday afternoon, he wasn’t overlooked by the Buffalo Bills.
Brooks became the 124th overall selection and the Bills’ fourth-round pick in the NFL draft, which concluded Saturday with round Nos. 4-7.
Brooks was the fifth and final LSU football player taken in the draft, following cornerback Morris Claiborne (first round/6th overall, Dallas), defensive tackle Michael Brockers (first round/14th, St. Louis), receiver Rueben Randle (second round/63rd, New York Giants) and safety Brandon Taylor (third round/73rd, San Diego), who were all taken in the top three rounds Thursday and Friday.
Other players with Louisiana ties came off the board Saturday, including star tight end Ladarius Green of Louisiana-Lafayette (fourth round/110th, San Diego); defensive end Frank Alexander of Oklahoma and Southern Lab (fourth round/103rd, Carolina); and cornerback Jeremy Lane of Northwestern State (six round/172nd, Seattle).
As for Brooks, he was naturally happy to find a home in the pros.
“It’s a lot of weight off my shoulders now, and I’m just excited and ready to get to work,” he said.
Brooks rarely played as one of LSU’s top two cornerbacks. He spent much of his career behind the likes of Patrick Peterson and Claiborne, back-to-back recipients of the Thorpe Award, given to the best defensive back in college football.
Peterson, the 2010 winner, was drafted No. 5 overall by Arizona last year.
Brooks, of course, was also overshadowed by Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu.
Still, Brooks never missed a game because of an injury, and in 53 games, he had 90 tackles and returned three interceptions for touchdowns.
“If he goes to just about any other school in the country, he’s a starting corner and he’s been there for a couple years,” Bills scout Shawn Heinlen said of Brooks. “But because he’s at LSU, he’s competing with the best of the best on a daily basis. They may not have enough time to get him snaps in games. There are just not enough positions.”
Brooks also noted that he played on almost every special-teams unit at LSU, something that should help him find a spot with the Bills.
Green, the ULL tight end, was typically regarded as one of the top four tight end prospects in the draft, projected to go anywhere between the second and fourth rounds.
Green watched his teammate, cornerback Dwight Bentley, go to Detroit in the third round Friday.
The 2012 draft marks the fourth time that more than one ULL player has been taken in the same draft.
“I am very proud of all that Ladarius has accomplished. ... I think that the San Diego Chargers will be a good fit for him,” ULL coach Mark Hudspeth said. “They have a veteran quarterback (Philip Rivers), and Ladarius will get to learn from Antonio Gates, who is one of the best tight ends in the game.”
Alexander was named The Associated Press Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year after posting 54 tackles, 8.5 sacks, one interception and one fumble recovery for the Sooners.
To get Alexander, the Panthers gave up next year’s third-round pick and one of their two sixth-round picks this year to San Francisco. General Manager Marty Hurney said he was thrilled to acquire Alexander after unsuccessfully attempting to trade up into the third round Saturday night.
“(Alexander) makes plays,” Hurney said. “He was a guy we said if we could get, we would make a trade.”
After the draft ended, the Cowboys signed Memphis guard Ronald Leary, a former Southern Lab standout, to a free-agent contract.
Other prospects, such as wideout LaQuinton Evans of Southern and guard Will Blackwell and linebacker Ryan Baker of LSU, must hope for a free-agent deal or tryout.