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Two more Rockets are 2017 NFL Draft Picks

UT defensive tackle Treyvon Hester was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the seventh round of the 2017 NFL Draft Saturday, the third Rocket to be taken in the draft.

Earlier in the day, tight end Michael Roberts was chosen in the fourth round by the Detroit Lions.

Running back Kareem Hunt was selected by the Kansas City Chiefs in the third round of the draft Friday night; read more here.

Hester

Hester, a 6-3, 300-pound defensive tackle, is a three-time All-Mid-American Conference player who earned second-team honors in 2016. In his four-year college career, Hester totaled 153 tackles, 31.5 tackles for loss and 13.0 sacks. He was selected to play in the East-West Shrine Game, but he had to sit out due to an injury.

Hester, the 244th pick of the draft, had been watching and waiting all day with friends and family until he finally got the call from Oakland.

“I was getting a little discouraged. It was getting late, almost the end of the draft,” Hester said. “When I finally got the call, my heart almost stopped. It was almost as exciting as if I was taken in the first round.

“I’m excited to be joining the Raiders. I don’t know a whole lot about the team, but I know about the history of the Raider mentality. I plan on working hard and always give it everything I have on the field.”

Hester, Hunt and Roberts are the first Rockets to be selected in the NFL Draft since John Greco and Jalen Parmele were selected in 2008. It also is the first time that three Rockets have been selected in the NFL Draft since the seven-round format began in 1994. UT had three players drafted in 1968 and four taken in 1963, an era when the NFL Draft had as many as 20 rounds.

Roberts

Roberts caught 45 passes for 533 yards and led the nation’s tight ends with 16 touchdown receptions, eight more than the next nearest tight end. A first-team All-America selection by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA), Roberts broke the Toledo record for touchdown catches in a season previously held by Lance Moore (14 in 2004). He shattered the school record for TD receptions by a tight end, formerly held by Don Seymour (9 in 1973). A first-team All-MAC honoree, Roberts had three TD catches in one game against both Western Michigan and Bowling Green. He played in the 2017 Senior Bowl and the East-West Shrine Game.

“It’s a moment I’ll never forget,” said Roberts, who watched the draft with friends and family. “I think my mom is still crying. It’s amazing. I’m just very happy right now.

“I thought I would go somewhere between the third and fifth rounds. I’m very happy with how it worked out. Detroit is a great opportunity for me. It’s probably the best possible situation for me. It’s also great that it’s so close to Toledo. I might be able to come back and watch some games this year.”

The selection of Hunt, Roberts and Hester in the draft represents a huge accomplishment for the players and the program, said UT Head Coach Jason Candle.

“The two biggest goals for our football program,” Candle said, “are to win a MAC Championship and help young men chase their dreams after graduation. For some of our players, reaching the NFL is a part of that. We are still working toward winning a championship, but this year’s draft is a step in the right direction.”

Norton

In addition, UT offensive lineman Storm Norton signed a free agent contract with the Detroit Lions Saturday immediately following the conclusion of the draft.

Norton, 6-8, 306 pounds, is a two-time, first-team All-MAC selection at left tackle. He was the leader of a unit that allowed just 14 sacks in 2016 and powered a Rocket offense that led the MAC in total offense (517.8) and passing offense (322.8). This past season he was on the official watch list for the Outland Trophy, awarded annually to the nation’s top interior lineman. He also was selected to play in the East-West Shrine Game.

“It’s a blessing for me to get a chance to play at the next level,” Norton said. “There is a lot of work to be done, but I’m excited for the opportunity.”

Norton has the chance to join former teammate Roberts, who was drafted by the Lions in the fourth round. Although he has never had a favorite NFL team, he is excited for the opportunity to play about an hour from his hometown.

“Ford Field is just right down the road from my house and my family. I definitely appreciate that,” Norton said.