Item: Not even a season in which he was named All-ACC first team, catching 94 passes for 1,482 yards and 14 touchdowns, added to that honor by being named the first Syracuse AP All- American (third team) since Dwight Freeney in 2001 (the same year the Orange was last ranked in the Top 25), and receiving an invite to February’s NFL Scouting Combine was convincing enough. None of those accomplishments could land grad transfer Amba Etta-Tawo a shot in any of the seven rounds of the 2017 draft, or among the 32 receivers that were selected at the event last week in Philadelphia. That’s the fickle nature of the business in finding a flaw here or there in talent evaluation, and it’s also symbolic of the fickle nature of an Orange football program that may have produced NFL draft picks that went on to become some of the greatest ever at their respective positions (Jim Brown, John Mackey, Marvin Harrison), but was one of only two (Virginia) ACC teams to come up empty in the recent draft proceedings.
Quick, name the last year in which Syracuse had two first round picks in the same NFL Draft?
It was the 1998 draft in which Terbucky Jones went 22nd overall to New England, and he was followed three selections later by Donovin Darius going to Jacksonville.
Since then there has been a somewhat respectable number of overall first round SU picks, six, or one about every three years, but none since Justin Pugh in 2013, and overall only six players have been taken in the draft since the program moved to the ACC now four seasons ago.
There are several factors in play with the lack of drafted players; the recruiting/scholarship cycle within the program producing fewer eligible players in a given year, injuries to pro prospects, and the uphill climb in the overall race of keeping up with conference mates who have larger resources in the separate, never-ending game of recruiting the best talent to fit the program’s culture.
With Denver Broncos punter Riley Dixon the only SU player drafted over the past three seasons, and converting his seventh round selection and lower salary than incumbent Britton Colquitt to win the punting job last season, it brought to mind another dry stretch the program had during most of the Frank Maloney era (1974-1980) with one other draft-less season (1975) and a total of 12 drafted players over Maloney’s seven seasons.
In the 1979 draft, another Syracuse kicker was the only player drafted, and was also selected by the Denver Broncos. Dave Jacobs went in the 12th and then-final round, in what was a much more subdued affair than today’s multi-million dollar, three day extravaganzas.
Upon hearing the news at his off campus residence, Jacobs somehow found a Broncos cap in the city of Syracuse, a bid deal back in 1979, and proudly donned it as he paraded through The Quad at the end of that spring semester.
Jacobs never ended up making the Broncos because he couldn’t beat out 15 year veteran Jim Turner, but he did play four games for the New York Jets during the ’79 season, kicking five field goals, and eight other NFL games with Cleveland and Philadelphia in a career that lasted parts of three seasons.