ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
some text Tennessee defensive back Justin Coleman (27) trips over Western Kentucky wide receiver Taywan Taylor (2) into the end zone for the Vols' first touchdown.

KNOXVILLE -- The streak is over.

For the first time since 1963, Tennessee did not have a player selected in the NFL draft after the Volunteers were shut out of the seven-round, 256-pick draft.

Tennessee's 51-year streak, which dates back to 1964, of having at least one player selected in the NFL draft was the sixth-longest in college football, trailing only Michigan and Southern California (76 years to 1939), Michigan State (75 years to 1940), Florida (63 years to 1952) and Nebraska (52 years to 1963).

It's a startling jolt of reality for a tradition-rich program digging its way out of mediocrity, even if it likely will be a one-year blip given the influx of NFL prospects third-year coach Butch Jones has injected into a roster that was badly in need of a talent upgrade when he took over after the 2012 season.

Cornerback Justin Coleman was Tennessee's best hope to keep the streak going, but he signed a free-agent deal with the Minnesota Vikings after he wasn't selected.

Former Vols Punter Matt Darr signed a free-agent deal with the Miami Dolphins, according to his Twitter.

The 5-foot-11, 188-pound Coleman, who led the Vols with four interceptions and recorded 42 tackles in 2014, was projected as a fifth- or sixth-round pick after strong showings at the East-West Shrine Game in January and the NFL combine in February.

One seven-round mock draft had Coleman going in the fifth round.

On his Twitter account on Thursday, Coleman posted a classy letter thanking his coaches, teammates and fans as he neared the next step of his football career.

"I hope to carry on the tradition of Tennessee players being selected in the draft," Coleman wrote. "However, no matter what happens, I will treasure my time at Tennessee and will work hard to represent Tennessee well in the NFL and wherever else life takes me!"

In all likelihood, Tennessee's streak would have continued this year if not for A.J. Johnson's off-field trouble.

The two-time All-SEC linebacker, who was second on the program's career tackles chart with 425 stops, was the Vols' best NFL prospect among the small outgoing senior class. But he was suspended in November amid a police investigation into an alleged rape and missed the final three games of his accomplished career.

some text Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson carries the ball through the center after intercepting it during the Vols' season-opener football game against the Aggies on Aug. 31, 2014, at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville.

Johnson and former Tennessee cornerback Michael Williams currently are awaiting trial after they were indicted by a grand jury on charges of aggravated rape in February.

The NFL pulled Johnson's combine invitation after his indictment, and it's highly unlikely any team will sign him at least until his legal situation clears up.

In 80 NFL drafts, Tennessee has not had a player drafted just four times: 1938, 1960, 1963 and 2015.

During the 51-year streak, only twice have the Vols had just one player selected, but both of those instances came recently. Defensive end Robert Ayers, who went 18th overall to Denver, was the lone pick in 2009. In 2012, Malik Jackson was taken in the fifth round (137th overall) by the Broncos.

The Vols had nine first-round picks in five drafts from 1998 through 2002, but have had just nine first-round selections in the 13 drafts since that impressive run.

Entering the 2015 draft, Tennessee had 337 players drafted, the most in the SEC and the seventh-most among college football behind USC (487), Notre Dame (485), Ohio State (413), Oklahoma (367), Nebraska (350) and Michigan (345).

Tennessee's 39 first-round picks since 1967 are the fourth-most, and its 26 first-rounders in the last 25 years are the sixth-most in college football.

Offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James was Tennessee's 45th first-round pick when the Miami Dolphins selected him 19th overall in 2014, and he went on to be an All-NFL Rookie Team selection after starting all 16 games.

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT