FOXBOROUGH — Before the second day of the 2013 NFL draft, Dwayne Gratz sent a text message to his University of Connecticut football teammates, Sio Moore and Blidi Wreh-Wilson, reassuring them their future was in front of them.
“I just told them ‘Good luck — things will work out for the best,’ ’’ Gratz said. “That was about it. I knew they were busy with their families and I didn’t want to be a distraction or anything like that.’’
Little did he know, however, Gratz caused his teammates to jump for joy when the Jacksonville Jaguars selected him with the 64th pick overall, making him the first of three UConn players taken in the third round.
North Carolina offensive lineman Brennan Williams, a former Catholic Memorial standout from Easton, Mass., and the son of former Patriots defensive end Brent Williams, was another local selected in the draft when the Texans took him in the third round, 89th overall.
“Aw man, I was happy, that’s like my brother right there,’’ said Moore, who watched from a draft party at his Apex, N.C., home. “I was glad he was able to get that opportunity to be great, because we did the pro day together with Jacksonville. It was just a blessing to see him pave the way for his future because he’s been through so much, there’s nothing I could be but happy for a teammate like Dwayne.’’
So did he jump out of his chair when he saw Gratz’s name come up on the board?
“I did jump out of my chair,’’ Moore said. “I haven’t gotten a chance to call him yet, but he knows how I feel about it. We had a long conversation and throughout our careers it’s been 357. With me being [No.] 3, Blidi being [No.] 5 and Gratz being 7. I’m just glad to see us go how we did.’’
While he did not have a wager with his teammates on who would be drafted first, Gratz, a 5-foot-11-inch, 198-pound cornerback from Piscataway, N.J., took particular pride in being the first Husky selected.
“It felt good, I’m not going to lie to you,’’ Gratz said. “It felt good because I was always the underdog, a lot of people didn’t know me and know what type of player I was or what type of person I was.
“To be able to be the first one selected from my school, it’s an honor, to me. It just shows the hard work I put in and how dedicated I was to get to where I am now.’’
Gratz’s selection seemed to trigger a run on UConn players.
After Detroit selected Kentucky guard Larry Warford 65th overall, Oakland took Moore, a 6-2, 229-pound linebacker, 66th overall. “After New York and Chicago had gone in the second round, because I had met with Chicago the day before the draft, I thought that was going to be a sure thing,’’ Moore said. “It didn’t happen and I’m just glad that the right organization picked me.”
Then, Wreh-Wilson, a 6-2, 190-pound corner from Edinboro, Pa., was selected 70th by the Titans, capping a mini-run on corners after Cleveland took Leon McFadden of San Diego State 68th and Arizona gambled by taking Tyrann Mathieu from LSU 69th.
“They had told me that they were disappointed that I didn’t work out for them [privately],’’ Wreh-Wilson said of the Titans. “I thought that the pro day was the best way for me to show what I can do.
“ At the end of the day they picked me and I’m just glad that they did.”
Apprised he and Gratz would likely be AFC South divisional rivals, Wreh-Wilson chuckled. “And Darius Butler, too,’’ he said, pointing out another UConn alum with the Indianapolis Colts. “I’ve looked into it already.’’
Their third-round selections capped a stellar collegiate career for the UConn trio.
“We came in and we all were impact freshmen,’’ Wreh-Wilson said. “Our redshirt-freshmen year, Sio had a heck of a year, Dwayne had a good year, and I had a pretty good year. It was crazy that we all went so close in the draft.
“We all went third round and we all went to good teams.”
Gratz’s text message, though, seemed to find its mark. “It was all love, man,’’ Moore said. “Like I said, he’s not a friend, he’s not a teammate, he’s my brother, so I’m just glad.’’Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.