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Published: Monday, 4/28/2008

UT's Greco, Parmele, BG's Lichtensteiger get call in NFL draft

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

John Greco thought he had planned accordingly.

The former University of Toledo star arranged to meet with family and friends for lunch yesterday so they could all sit around and learn where he'd begin his professional football career.

But that phone call came around breakfast time.

The St. Louis Rams selected Greco with the second pick of the third round in yesterday's NFL draft, ending the suspense shortly after the 10 a.m. start time. Greco was en route to a restaurant in his hometown of Youngstown when he got the call from Rams coach Scott Linehan.

"I just kept telling myself I've done everything I could to prepare for this weekend," said Greco, who becomes UT's highest draft choice since 1993. "It was out of my hands, and I was waiting to see what happened."

The Denver Broncos drafted Bowling Green State University center Kory Lichtensteiger with the ninth pick in the fourth round and later signed UT punter Brett Kern to an undrafted free agent contract. UT running back Jalen Parmele was selected by Miami with the 10th pick in the sixth round.

Lichtensteiger, like Greco, chose to spend the day in a low-key setting - at his grandparents' lake house in Coldwater, Mich. Instead of watching the draft on TV, Lichtensteiger played corn hole with his brothers and former BG teammate Drew Nystrom. It was during a game that Lichtensteiger received a call from Denver saying he'd been selected.

"It was just so very strange to me," Lichtensteiger said. "It was like, I get this call that was going to be changing my whole life around. All my family was around me. When I said it was the Broncos, I yelled it. I was just so glad not only that a team wanted me, but the fact that it was Denver was even better."

Parmele wasn't as relaxed watching the draft from his parents' home in Midland, Mich. He grew increasingly nervous with each passing pick, wondering whether his time would ever come. Unlike Greco and Lichtensteiger, Parmele's draft prospectswere somewhat tenuous.

"You never know what teams are thinking," Parmele said. "You never know if you're on the top of anybody's list or not, so that's one thing going on in your head. The fifth round [had passed] then the sixth round was up. I was kind of shaking to see how I'd fit in."

University of Michigan players selected were linebacker Shawn Crable (New England in the third round), wide receiver Mario Manningham (New York Giants in the third), running back Mike Hart (Indianapolis in the sixth) and wide receiver Adrian Arrington (New Orleans in the seventh). Ohio State linebacker Larry Grant (San Francisco) and offensive lineman Kirk Barton (Chicago) were taken in the seventh round.

Being drafted by the Dolphins means Parmele received a stamp of approval from legendary coach Bill Parcells, who is in his first year as Miami's executive vice president of football operations. Parmele has been told he will probably be used on special teams this season.

"Obviously for him to see something in me means a lot," Parmele said. "It makes me more determined to succeed and contribute to the team the best that I can."

Reports out of St. Louis have Greco providing immediate depth at the offensive tackle positions before settling in for good on the right side. The drafting of Greco assures St. Louis of having a UT lineman for the 10th consecutive year. Former Rocket Andy McCollum played the last nine seasons at center but does not have a contract with the team entering next season.

Greco visited St. Louis two weeks ago but had no strong inkling that he'd land with the Rams.

"They have great tradition there," Greco said. "I think they built on some things this weekend to help the team. We're going to help anyway we can to get them going in the right direction again."

Lichtensteiger was the third center selected in the draft - one spot after San Francisco grabbed Texas A&M's Cody Wallace. Lichtensteiger said playing on the line for Denver is a considerable advantage over San Francisco, as the Broncos run a system similar to the one at BG. Also, Denver has a long history of developing quality offensive linemen, including 14-year pro Tom Nalen, whom Lichtensteiger may ultimately replace at center.

"Their offensive line play pretty much matches up with BG's zone blocking scheme and cut blocking," Lichtensteiger said. "I was a little nervous about adjusting to the NFL if the team discouraged [cut blocking]."

Lichtensteiger will unite in Denver with two other rookies from the Mid-American Conference in Kern and Kent State cornerback Jack Williams who was taken 11 picks after Lichtensteiger in the fourth round.

"We're teammates now," Kern said of Lichtensteiger. "That rivalry's done if you ask me."

Kern was offered a contract by Denver "two minutes" after the draft concluded, a proposition he expected after conversing with team officials last week. Denver has two punters on its roster, neither of whom has established himself at the pro level.

"They said they had a lot of needs to fill in the draft and if they filled them and had a pick left they'd take me," Kern. "If not they'd strike a deal after the draft."

Contact Ryan Autullo at:

rautullo@theblade.com.



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