Heeney, Shepherd, McDonald Selected in 2015 NFL Draft
LAWRENCE, Kan. – It was an exciting afternoon for Kansas football as three Jayhawks were selected in the 2015 National Football League (NFL) Draft. Linebacker Ben Heeney and cornerbacks JaCorey Shepherd and Dexter McDonald were each selected on the third day of the draft, giving KU three draft picks for the first time since 2010.
Heeney was the first Jayhawk off the board as he was taken in the fifth round by the Oakland Raiders with the 140th overall pick. The Hutchinson, Kansas native led Kansas in tackles in each of the last three seasons, picking up First Team All-Big 12 honors in 2014.
“This is what I have been working toward since third grade,” said Heeney. “Just having my family and friends around me when it happened, it was so special. Everyone started crying and it’s just what I have been working toward since I started playing football. Never in a million years did I think I would be an Oakland Raider, but I couldn’t be more happy to be one.”
Heeney concluded his senior season ranking second in the Big 12 and 12th nationally with 127 tackles, including 88 solo stops—which ranked first in the conference and second in the NCAA. Heeney recorded a 2014 Big 12 high 21 tackles against Texas Tech. Of his 21 stops against the Red Raiders, 17 were solo hits, marking the second most-ever by a player in a Big 12 Conference game.
During his Kansas career, Heeney tallied 335 total tackles, which ranks eight in KU history. He also finished with 35.5 tackles-for-loss, which puts his name in fourth place on the KU all-time chart.
Heeney is the first Jayhawk drafted by the Oakland Raiders since 1978 when tackle Lindsay Martin was tabbed by the organization in the third round. Being taken with the 140th pick marks the highest draftee for Kansas since 2010, when safety Darrell Stuckey was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the fourth round with the 110th pick.
Next up for Kansas in the 2015 NFL Draft was Shepherd who was selected in the sixth round by the Philadelphia Eagles with the 191st pick.
“There is a lot of excitement around here right now,” said Shepherd, who watched the draft with his family back home in Mesquite, Texas. “I have been working since middle school for this moment. I was getting a little nervous for a while, but now I am just ready to get to Philly and prove everyone who passed me up wrong. I knew when I visited the Eagles that they liked me a lot, so I knew going there was a possibility. They expected me to go earlier and told me they were very happy I was still around for that pick.”
Shepherd earned First Team All-Big 12 honors in 2014. He started all 12 games for the second-straight season and led the Big 12 with 19 passes defended, while also recording 30 tackles and a team-leading three interceptions, while only allowing two touchdown passes. Additionally, he averaged 20.9 yards on 33 kick returns.
Shepherd is a three-time Academic All-Big 12 Second Team honoree and a four-time Athletic Director’s Honor Roll member. He was named the Lee Roy Selmon Community Spirit Award, a 2015 University of Kansas Men of Merit honoree and was a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award. He took home the Rock Chalk Choice Award for Best Jayhawk in a Supporting Role and was the University of Kansas nominee for the 2013-14 Big 12 Conference Male Sportsperson of the Year.
Shepherd is the first Jayhawk to be drafted by the Eagles since they plucked two KU players in the 1978 draft. In 1978 a pair of KU running backs, Norris Banks and (fifth round) Bill Campfield (11th round), were selected by Philadelphia.
McDonald and Heeney will remain teammates as McDonald was tabbed in the seventh round by the Raiders with the 242nd pick overall. The Kansas City, Missouri, native, started 24-straight games at cornerback for KU, earning All-Big 12 honorable mention accolades and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors on Sept. 6, 2014.
“Its amazing,” said McDonald. “I achieved a lifelong dream today. It was a relief to get that phone call from the Raiders and I am very grateful to them for picking me. A lot of people don’t have this opportunity, I feel very blessed to be in this exclusive position and have been able to share this time with my family.
“Oakland plays man defense so I am excited to get out there and show them that they made a good selection by picking me. Playing man is my strength and I am ready to get there and get work. I could not be more excited about getting to keep playing with Ben (Heeney). We have been on the field a lot together over the last few years and it will be nice having a fellow Jayhawk out there with me.”
McDonald joined forces with Shepherd to form one of the top secondary tandems in the NCAA. He collected 35 tackles, 13 pass breakups and two interceptions as a senior. His 13 pass breakups ranked fifth in the Big 12 Conference.
McDonald had a stellar junior campaign in the Crimson and Blue as he ranked eighth in the Big 12 with 12 pass breakups, to go along with 29 tackles and two interceptions.
Heeney, Shepherd and McDonald are the first Jayhawk trio to be selected in the NFL Draft since 2010 when KU players Darrell Stuckey (4th, San Diego Chargers), Kerry Meier (5th, Atlanta Falcons) and Dezmon Briscoe (6th, Cincinnat Bengals) were each tabbed.
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