Renfree drafted by Falcons
Unable to throw for NFL scouts because of a torn chest muscle, Sean Renfree nevertheless made Duke history on Saturday.
The Atlanta Falcons selected Renfree in the seventh round of the NFL draft, making him the first Duke player taken in the draft since 2004.
“Sean realizes a dream that so many boys have at an early age, and no one is more deserving,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said.
Renfree (6-3, 219) completed 67.3 percent of his passes for Duke this past season, setting the school’s single-season record for pass completion percentage while leading the Blue Devils to their first bowl game in 18 years.
Renfree suffered a torn pectoral muscle late in Duke’s 48-34 loss to Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 27. He still is recovering from surgery that repaired the injury.
But his play at Duke and his meetings with NFL officials at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in February made him appealing anyway.
Cutcliffe called Renfree, who completed 64.3 percent of his career passes at Duke, was the most accurate passer available this season.
“A career completion percentage of nearly 65 percent for a major-college quarterback is exceptional, and in Sean’s case, that happened for a reason because of his skill level, mental toughness and preparation,” Cutcliffe said. “There has been no better representative of the Duke football program since we’ve been here, and the Atlanta Falcons are getting a young man who will have a positive impact on the field, in the film room, in the locker room and in the community. He’s just that type of special person.”
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said he expects Renfree to battle with former East Carolina quarterback Dominque Davis for the No. 2 slot behind starting quarterback Matt Ryan.
Ryan made the Pro Bowl this past season. Luke McCown, Ryan’s primary backup a year ago, signed with New Orleans.
Renfree is the first Duke player drafted since the New York Giants selected tackle Drew Strojny in the seventh round of the 2004 draft.
Duke has not had a player selected before the seventh round since 2000, when defensive end Chris Combs went in the sixth round to Pittsburgh.
In addition to Renfree, Duke wide receiver Conner Vernon is headed to the NFL. After going undrafted, Vernon agreed to a free agent deal with the Oakland Raiders on Saturday night.
His agent, Brian Levy, said a handful of teams inquired about Vernon, who finished his Duke career the ACC’s career leader in pass receptions, receiving yards and consecutive games having caught a pass.
“We chose the team we felt had the best opportunity for Conner,” Levy said.
UNC had one selection on Saturday — right guard Travis Bond was picked in the seventh round (214th overall) by the Minnesota Vikings.
The 6-6, 329-pound senior was a two-year starter for the Tar Heels and earned the nickname “Tree Top” because of his size — Bond weighed 372 pounds as a junior before slimming down to play in UNC coach Larry Fedora’s fast-tempo offense.
“I love run blocking,” Bond said. “(Minnesota has) Adrian Peterson, a big-time running back. I just want to make sure he has a nice, big hole to run through when he’s scoring touchdowns.”
It marked the first time since the common draft started in 1967 that three offensive lineman from UNC were picked — left guard Jonathan Cooper was taken seventh overall by Arizona, and right tackle Brennan Williams was selected in the third round (89th overall) by Houston.
First-team All-ACC linebacker Kevin Reddick, a four-year starter who led the conference in tackles for loss this season (14.5), was projected to be a middle-round pick but was left off the board.
Reddick was quickly picked up as an undrafted free agent by the Saints. Wide receiver Erik Highsmith, who ranks third all-time at UNC with 166 receptions, was signed by Minnesota, and kicker Casey Barth, the school record holder with 358 points, was taken by Atlanta.