April 24, 2010
Never at a loss for words, J.D. Walton said he was "speechless" when the Denver Broncos called Friday night to tell the Baylor center they were selecting him in the third round of the NFL Draft.
The Broncos, who took 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow from Florida in the first round, plucked the 6-foot-3, 300-pound Walton with the 80th pick overall in the draft.
"I was speechless when the Broncos called," said Walton, a finalist for the Rimington Trophy and first-team All-American by the Associated Press in 2009. "I'm very happy where I was drafted. It's an unbelievable feeling, and I feel blessed that I'm going to get to continue my football career."
A native of Allen, Texas, Walton started 36 consecutive games at center for the Bears after transferring from Arizona State in 2006. He recorded 112 knockdowns in 12 games this season (9.3 per game) and earned a coach's grade of 90 percent or higher nine times, with no grade lower than 86.
With the Broncos releasing veteran center Casey Wiegmann in February, Walton could get a chance to become an immediate starter on a line that returns Tyler Polumbus and Ryan Clady at the tackles and Ben Hamilton and Chris Kuper at guard.
The Broncos, who also took Utah offensive lineman Zane Beadles (6-4, 310) in the second round, had Walton as the second-rated center on their draft board behind Florida's Maurkice Pouncey (taken in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers).
"I'm there to bust my butt and earn it," said Walton, who will go to a Broncos' rookie mini-camp next weekend in Denver. "Nothing is going to be given."
Denver head coach Josh McDaniels told The Denver Post, "We were real fortunate he was there. We're excited to add him into that competition at center."
With offensive tackle Jason Smith taken with the No. 2 pick overall in the 2009 NFL Draft, the Bears have had an offensive lineman drafted in back-to-back years for the first time in 22 years.
Walton is also the first Baylor center taken in the draft since the Chicago Bears drafted John Adickes in the sixth round in 1987 and the highest-drafted Baylor center since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took Randy Grimes with a second-round pick in '83.
"I've had a real good time with my family and some of my boys here tonight," Walton said in a phone interview from his home in Denton, Texas. "They're already looking at Denver's schedule, trying to figure out which games they can come to."
"Definitely would have to go with the center position, but I'm down to play any position on the offensive line."
On His Surprise about Being Drafted by the Broncos
"On Draft Day, I was very surprised and very blessed to be able to come to (the Broncos). I had an idea because they came down and worked me out and then flew me out (to Denver), so it was all just waiting on the call and waiting for it to happen. I am very, very happy and very, very excited to be a Bronco."
On If He Can Start at Center as a Rookie
"I am going to have to come in there, bust my butt and learn the offense before I get anything. I will give the respect to the older guys and have them know that I am there to bust my butt and win games with them. I have to earn that position; nothing's going to be given to me."
On His Strengths
"I think my pass blocking is very good... I think I can get out in the space and get out to linebackers in the corners on screens. But, everything's going to have to be bumped up another level just because it's the NFL. Everything's got to be stepped up a notch."