Lions' Mane Man: UNC's Ebron goes No. 10, gets engaged

May. 08, 2014 @ 11:01 PM

Eric Ebron delivered a surprise Thursday afternoon, then got a pleasant surprise of his own Thursday night.

First the North Carolina tight end proposed to UNC women’s basketball player Brittany Rountree at the top of the Empire State Building. She said yes.

Hours later, the junior was picked 10th overall by the Detroit Lions in the 2014 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall, becoming only the eighth top-10 pick in UNC history.

Many analysts thought the Lions would focus on defense, but the attraction of matching Ebron with receivers Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, running back Reggie Bush and quarterback Matthew Stafford proved too much to pass up for Detroit.

“With Megatron (Johnson) and Golden Tate and now myself, we plan on hopefully making something insane happen,” Ebron said in an interview on the team’s website. “I set my goals high. I never set my standards low. One of my goals is to win Offensive Rookie of the Year. I think I can do that with this type of offense in Detroit.”

The Greensboro native set school records for single-season and career receptions by a tight end with 62 and 112, respectively, and set an ACC single-season record with 973 receiving yards this past season, topping the previous mark of 871 set my Maryland’s Vernon Davis in 2005.

Davis was the last tight end taken in the top 10 of the draft — he was picked sixth by the 49ers in 2006.

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, who was at UNC’s pro day, said Ebron isn’t as quick as Davis but has better hands.

“Everything this kid does is easy,” Mayock said. “He’s one of the best athletes I’ve ever seen for that size.”

ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said that Ebron was a great athlete with tremendous speed, but is capable of head-scratching drops and communication lapses.

“He will not block, he’s not going to assist your running game,” Kiper said. “But as an impactful, pass-catching glorified wide receiver, that’s what Eric Ebron is.”

In Detroit, Ebron will be working under first-year offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi. Lombardi previously worked as the quarterbacks coach at New Orleans, where tight end Jimmy Graham caught 41 touchdowns over the past four seasons.

“I’m not going to compare myself to Jimmy Graham, because he’s done some amazing things,” Ebron said. “But I have the offense that he’s run and I have the talent that he has, so I’m going to do just about the same things he’s done, if not better.”

The Lions already have two veteran tight ends, Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria, but Detroit general manager Martin Mayhew still chose Ebron, who Mayhew called “a matchup nightmare.”

Ebron is UNC’s seventh first-round pick in the past seven years. Prior to Thursday, the highest a Tar Heel tight end had been selected was when the Falcons took Alge Crumpler 35th overall in 2001.

“Eric is the prototype tight end that the NFL is looking for these days,” said UNC coach Larry Fedora, who coached Pettigrew at Oklahoma State. “He can run all the routes. He can catch the ball, make people miss and has the speed to run away from defenders. The Lions are getting a special player.”

Lions great Barry Sanders announced Ebron’s selection, and the tight end appeared to choke up before making his way across the stage. Detroit’s pick seemed to validate Ebron’s decision to go pro after his junior year and capped a memorable day for the tight end, who started dating Rountree exactly two years ago Thursday.

“It’s something that’s been on my mind for awhile,” Ebron said of the engagement. “I just wanted to show her that I’m all about her no matter what. I tend to stick to my guns in everything, so if I want one thing that’s what I do and I go all out.”