By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
After dominating the publicity out of the National Football League draft over the first two days as slot receiver Tavon Austin became the first skill position drafted and quarterback Geno Smith surprisingly did not go until the second round, West Virginia University failed to have anyone selected in the fourth through seventh rounds on Saturday.
That did not mean they did not send anyone into the league as center Joey Madsen, wide receiver J.D. Woods and offensive guard Jeff Braun announced via Twitter that they had signed free agent contracts, Madsen and Woods with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Braun with the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
Also on Saturday the New York Jets held a press conference to introduce Smith to the New York media, diplomatically handling the situation into which he has been thrust, the Jets being involved in a quarterback controversy with starter Mark Sanchez having a difficult year with former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow casting a huge shadow over him.
Smith just complicates things further with most observers expecting the Jets to get rid of Tebow and make Smith the starter over Sanchez.
Asked if he had concerns coming into a situation where there is a quarterback who has been the starter for the past four years, Smith said:
“Like I said, my job is to come in and compete. I look forward to learning from David (Garrard) and Tim (Tebow) and Mark (Sanchez), guys who have been professionals in the NFL. So I look forward to that.
“Also learning from Coach (Marty) Mornhinweg and Coach (David) Lee. Coming in Rex (Ryan) and Mr. (John) Idzik have already told me that my job is just to come in and compete, so that’s what I’m going to do.”
However, it appears he is not being welcomed with open arms by the rest of the team, saying that no one, including any of the quarterbacks, has yet to reach out to him.
The New York media tried to draw him into what has been a controversy, asking him if he was aware of what had gone on between Sanchez and Ryan last year.
“With the media circus and just ESPN always following things, you always see it,” he answered, but was not about to bite. “I’ve always thought highly of both Tim and Mark, so when you see those things, and as a quarterback, you understand exactly what’s going on.”
Smith said his concerns at present are centered upon learning the playbook and the terminology in a new system before mini-camp begins in two weeks.
“I’ve received my playbook. Just basically touched bases with Coach Mornhinweg, Coach Lee, Mr. Idzik, Mr. (Woody) Johnson, and Coach Ryan, and basically taking a tour of everything. I’ve been here once. I’ve pretty much got a feel for the building and where I’ll be having meetings at but just getting a whole new feel for it,” he said.
Madsen had held out high hopes of being drafted in the late rounds, but often it’s better to go the free agency rout as you have a choice of where you want to go and he opted to go with the Steelers.
Known for a Mohawk haircut that he wore much of the year, the 6-4, 310-pounder from Chardon, Ohio, missed the Pinstripe Bowl for academic reasons but played in the Senior Bowl.
Braun, a versatile lineman who has played up and down the offensive line, was not thought to be a professional prospect but surprised people with his work on Pro Day, enough that the Ravens decided they wanted to bring him to camp.
An intelligent player who is driven to succeed, Braun has a lot of work in front of him, but he’s the kind of player who could help a team through his versatility, intelligence and drive. That drive was seen as he started 39 consecutive games at WVU, every game his sophomore, junior and senior years.
Woods makes it three Mountaineer receivers who are going into the NFL, joining Austin and Stedman Bailey, the third-round pick of the St. Louis Rams.
“It’s amazing,” Madsen said Saturday night to West Virginia Illustrated. “It’s great that it’s over. I’ve been stressing out for two days, pretty much, with what ifs and if this happens, what do I do?
“I got a call from the Ravens and the Raiders and some other teams and I weighed my options, I saw which one could be a better fit for me and where I could take the team and that’s where I picked. Since my childhood, I’ve loved them. The Steelers are my favorite team, so it’s a dream come true.”
Also late on Saturday night, the New Orleans Saints signed former WVU running back Shawne Alston.
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.