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Underclassmen Aren't New to the NFL Draft


It wasn't until last year that undergrads became acceptable in the regular draft--and only after seeking clearance from the league. Previously, just players whose classes had graduated were eligible.

Dallas was one of the first team's to take advantage of that rule, grabbing linebacker Mike Hegman in 1975.

"I have a feeling no one else knew he was eligible," Gil Brandt, then the Cowboys' VP of personnel development, said. "Obviously, I wasn't going to go around asking."

When the league finally decided it could no longer be so prohibitive in drafting procedures, it also knew the floodgates could open.

Barry Sanders was the first junior to take advantage and was picked No. 3 overall in 1989. The Heisman Trophy winner went on to a spectacular season, becoming Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Three others--QBs Steve Walsh and Timm Rosenbach, RB Bobby Humphrey--were taken in the supplemental draft. Only Humphrey, with Denver, had much impact, while Walsh wound up costing Dallas the No. 1 selection this year.

With that pick, they could have gone for Keith McCants, Jeff George, Junior Seau or any of the 35 underclassmen accepted into this year's draft.

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