Harrell first of two Vols picked in first round of NFL draft

Associated Press • Apr 29, 2007 at 8:15 AM

Justin Harrell came back for his senior season at the University of Tennessee thinking he might have a chance to play his way into a top 10 spot in the NFL draft, then tore his left biceps tendon.

So he dropped. All the way to the 16th pick overall Saturday.

The defensive tackle became the first player from a Tennessee-based college taken Saturday in the draft as the first pick by the Green Bay Packers. Harrell played only three games as a senior, including his last against Florida with his arm heavily wrapped.

"That's one thing I heard. If I would've played my whole senior year, they said I would've been a top 10 pick," Harrell said from his family's home in Martin, Tenn.

"I definitely think I made the right choice coming back for another year."

Five Volunteers were drafted Saturday, with Robert Meachem joining Harrell in the first round. Lineman Arron Sears and defensive tackle Turk McBride were drafted in the second round, and cornerback Jonathan Wade went at No. 84 to match the Vols' total for the 2006 draft.

Lane College in Jackson became the other Tennessee school with a player drafted late Saturday when the Houston Texans selected wide receiver Jacoby Jones with the 73rd pick overall and ninth in the third round.

Meachem became the first Vols receiver taken in the first round since Donté Stallworth in 2002, and Meachem went to the same team as Stallworth - the New Orleans Saints.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took Sears with the 35th pick overall as the third player drafted in the second round.

Most projections had Meachem as the top player from a Tennessee school to be drafted. Harrell was seen as a late first-round pick.

But the 6-foot-4, 305-pound Harrell, who wore the late Reggie White's No. 92 at Tennessee, wound up as the second defensive tackle drafted. His gutsy performance against Florida included three tackles, including one for loss.

"Playing against Florida, which is a big rivalry, you take those up any chance you get," Harrell said.

Meachem lasted until No. 27 when the Saints boosted the NFL's top offense by taking the fourth receiver off the board, someone who set Tennessee's single season record with 1,298 yards receiving off a career-high 71 catches.

"I am really excited and feel blessed," he said. "I know the Saints have a very good offense, and I am just looking forward to getting in there and seeing how I can help out. This is a great day."

The 6-4, 328-pound Sears missed only two games to injury since his freshman season, and he played every position on the offensive line. He started 26 of 37 games at left tackle but was the third-rated guard overall by NFLDraftScout.com.

McBride may have been Tennessee's most valuable defensive lineman, filling in where needed and starting 17 of 43 games. Kansas City took him with the 54th pick overall. St. Louis took Wade at No. 84 in the third round.

Jones is a 6-3, 210-pound receiver who didn't play football until his junior year in high school and who first went to college on a track scholarship before transferring to Lane.

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