Most Washington, D.C.-area sports fans were ecstatic to see the Redskins actually make what football critics deemed a smart decision in selecting offensive tackle Trent Williams in the 2010 NFL draft. But that wasn’t the only reason why DMV natives were excited about this year’s draft.

Fort Washington, Md. native Joe Haden shed tears of joy last Thursday night after receiving a call from Cleveland Browns coach Eric Mangini, informing the University of Florida standout that he will be selected with the No. 7 overall pick, becoming the highest Gator cornerback drafted since Steve Tannen was taken with the 20th overall pick in 1970.

“I am just trying to soak it all up,” Haden told reporters during the post draft press conference. “It’s crazy and just a dream come true. I feel like this is a blessing.”

Haden, who celebrated his 21st birthday on April 14, is now the second metro-area native to be drafted in the top 10 picks during the past two years of the draft, joining former University of Maryland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, who was also taken No. 7 overall by the Oakland Raiders in 2009. District native Vernon Davis was also selected No. 6 overall by the San Francisco 49ers in 2006.

Like Davis and Heyward-Bey, Haden will now become a multi-millionaire after signing what most critics project to be a contract worth at least $20 million in guaranteed money.

Haden was considered the top cornerback available in the draft, which explains why he was selected so high, but the 5-foot-11-inch, 195-pound athlete wasn’t always looked at as a defensive star. He played quarterback at Friendly High School in Fort Washington, setting a state record with 7,371 career passing yards and also tied the state record with 80 touchdown passes. But as a freshman at Florida, Haden was converted into a cornerback, making an instant impact. He went on to record 218 tackles, 34 pass breakups and eight interceptions in three seasons.

With that kind of résumé, there wasn’t much second guessing from the Browns on taking Haden.

“He was just trying to make me smile because he saw the tears coming from my eyes,” Haden said about the best phone call of his life. “It was just tears of joy, just to finally be able to arrive and know that I’m playing for a team and know where I’m going to be because I just knew it was going to happen.”


Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor