TROY, Ala. (TroyTrojans.com) - For the seventh time since joining the Sun Belt Conference, and the 32nd time in school history, the Troy University football program had a player selected in the National Football League (NFL) Draft.
TROY receiver/kick returner Jerrel Jernigan was selected in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the New York Giants on Friday night with the 83rd overall pick.
He joins a pair of former Trojans, Osi Umenyiora and Lawrence Tynes, on the roster of a recent Super Bowl champion.
"This is probably the greatest day of my life," Jernigan said by phone late Friday night. "It was great to be able to spend the day with my family and friends, just waiting on the phone call. It was well worth the wait. To be able to be here with my family on the special day means everything."
Jernigan becomes the highest draft pick for the Trojans since defensive back Sherrod Martin was chosen by the Carolina Panthers in the second round in 2009. He is also the fourth Trojan drafted in the first three rounds since the Trojans joined the Sun Belt Conference - joining first round picks Demarcus Ware (2004) and Leodis McKelvin (2008).
For Jernigan, the chance to play for the New York Giants is a dream come true. "I am going to a good team," Jernigan said. "They have a great quarterback and some great running backs on their offense. The receiving corps is good, and I am looking forward to getting up there to learn from them. I just want a chance to showcase my talents, and what better place than the bright lights of the Big Apple. I am just ready to get to work."
According to ESPN.com, Jernigan is undersized and raw as a route-runner but is a tough competitor who shows the burst to create separation out of breaks, and he can create after the catch. He also brings great value as a returner on special teams.
This position was hit by a lot of injury issues and wound up not being the strong unit the Giants thought they had. Jernigan is not necessarily a big-play guy but he can work out of the slot, create yards after the catch and give them some return ability. Jernigan left his mark, both at the school and in the Sun Belt, holding numerous records before his departure this season. The Eufaula native becomes the fourth member of the Trojans to be in the NFC East, joining Ware with the Cowboys and his two new teammates - Umenyiora and Tynes.
He also becomes the fifth different Trojan to be on a team in the state of New York - joining former teammates Levi Brown and McKelvin, both playing at Buffalo.