Avery Williamson had to wait a few rounds, but Saturday the Tennessee Titans made it well worth his wait.
With the 151st pick in the NFL Draft, the former Kentucky linebacker learned he would get to start his professional career in his home state.
"It's crazy. The fact that I'm two hours away from the house and I can come home whenever and my family will be close, so I will have a good support system," Williamson said.
The Titans were one of the teams Williamson met with before the draft.
"I thought they might (pick me), but I didn't know. I thought someone else might slip in and take me," Williamson said. "When I saw the number pop up I was like, 'Aw man,' I couldn't believe it."
Williamson, from Milan, Tenn., grew up rooting for the Titans.
"I love Steve McNair, Eddie George, and Jevon Kearse so I was always watching the Titans when I was growing up," he said. "It's amazing to think that I am going to be playing for them. It's surreal."
After being a vocal and emotional leader at Kentucky for the past couple of seasons, Williamson will have to get used to being a rookie again, but he'll have former UK linebacker Wesley Woodyard to show him the ropes.
"That was the first thing that I thought about is that I'm going to be with Wesley and be able to play beside him and I will have somebody great to look up to and to guide me in first year," Williamson said. "It's going to be great."
Williamson, a 6-foot-1, 246-pounder, was selected early in the fifth round.
Likely an undrafted free agent a few short months ago, Williamson improved his stock with impressive combine performances, including finishing 11th or better in four of the six workouts for his position, including bench press (eighth) with 25 of them, broad jump (ninth), three-cone drill (11th) and third in the 20-yard shuttle.
"It was huge for me to show out at the combine and do good," Williamson said. "It was my chance and I really had to shine and take advantage of it."
Blake Beddingfield, the Titans' director of college scouting, said Williamson fits in well with what the team does defensively.
"I think we're always looking for a player like Avery," Beddingfield said. "He's got great intangibles, he's a leadership-type player, he's been a special teams-type player, he's an inside backer ... he could probably play multiple positions as well as special teams. He played injured a little bit this year and played through it and was very tough ... this is a kid that's got a lot going for him."
Kentucky has had at least one player taken in the NFL Draft every year since 2008, including most recently Larry Warford (Lions, third round) in 2013, Winston Guy (Seahawks, sixth) and Danny Trevathan (Broncos, sixth) in 2012, and Randall Cobb (Packers, second) in 2011.
Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com. Dennis Varney: (859) 231-3514.Twitter: @ExCats.