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San Diego State’s Kevin O’Connell was the fifth quarterback taken overall and the first on the second day of the NFL Draft when his name was called in the third round as the 94th player overall by the New England Patriots.
These are the guys who went after him: USC’s John David Booty (137,
fifth) and Oregon’s Dennis Dixon (156, fifth).
The University of San Diego’s Josh Johnson was the eighth quarterback taken when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers picked him as the 160th player overall in the fifth round.
These are the guys who went after him: Tennessee’s Erik Ainge (162, fifth), Hawaii’s Colt Brennan (186, sixth), Kentucky’s Andre Woodson (198, sixth) and LSU’s Matt Flynn (209, seventh).
It might seem like a surprise, but not really.
O’Connell and Johnson were two of the best bargains in football for San Diego fans to see, especially with the Chargers selling out all their games. If you didn’t see them, you weren’t paying attention while you were complaining about SDSU’s losing record or Johnson not playing at a major college football level.
O’Connell’s defining moment with NFL scouts might have been the Wyoming game.
With San Diego State facing third-and-13 in the final two minutes, O’Connell broke off on a scramble to the left before he saw Vincent Brown come open in the back left corner of the end zone. O’Connell set himself and hit Brown with a 27-yard touchdown pass with 1:06 left in the game for a 27-24 lead that stood up.
“Vincent was the third or fourth option on that play,” O’Connell said at the time. “We were just trying to get a first down. I went through the first couple of reads and then things started to collapse. I definitely stayed in there too long, but the O-line held up.”
O’Connell said he planned to run for a first down around the left end before he spotted Brown.
“I had to find the laces again, because I was fumbling the ball around in my hand,” O’Connell said. “It was a heck of a play by him to be a freshman and make a big-time play like that.”
Johnson showed Northern Colorado’s coaches in September he was a better NFL prospect than Brennan, the Hawaii quarterback who gained Heisman Trophy votes.
Two weeks after Northern Colorado lost to Brennan at Hawaii, Northern Colorado lost to Johnson at USD. Johnson completed 23-of-31 passes for
281 yards and six touchdowns and rang up 427 total yards when he ran nine times for 147 yards.
“Johnson is more athletic and can run the ball,” said Northern Colorado defensive coordinator Cody Deti after the game in September. “He made some plays against us that made us look foolish (an 89-yard run). He’s a tough kid, too. He got blown up in the end zone when he got his headgear blown off.”