Safety sheds tears when Birds pick him

Posted: April 29, 2007

As expected, the Eagles took a defensive back with their first pick.

Oh, sure, it was the second day and the fifth round of the NFL draft today, so the name recognition and excitement wasn't quite the same as it would have been if they had used the 26th overall selection of the first round to take a defensive back on Saturday.

Nevertheless, Clemson's C.J. Gaddis was overcome with emotion when he got that phone call telling him that the Eagles had used the 159th pick of the draft to select him. He even cried.

"This is the first time I've cried in years," Gaddis said during a conference call with reporters at the NovaCare Complex. "I've been waiting to see my name come across the screen and when I got the call from the 215 [area code], I pretty much got the feeling [that the Eagles had taken him]."

Gaddis, who played cornerback and safety at Clemson, was the first of four players taken on the second day of the draft by the Eagles. They also used a fifth-round pick on Brent Celek, a tight end from Cincinnati, then closed out the draft by taking Albany safety Rashad Barksdale in the sixth round and Hawaii fullback Nate "Nasti" Ilaoa in the seventh round.

Those four joined Houston quarterback Kevin Kolb, Notre Dame defensive end Victor Abiamiri, Nebraska linebacker Stewart Bradley, and Penn State running back Tony Hunt as the Eagles' eight-man 2007 draft class.

It's not a draft filled with players who are expected to have a major impact during the upcoming season, but coach Andy Reid said he didn't think the Eagles had a lot of immediate needs to fill.

"I didn't feel like we had to concentrate on one specific position going in," Reid said. "We had done a nice job in free agency at really re-signing our own players and we actually had some players on injured reserve coming back. I thought we had good depth and more so than good depth, we had good, quality depth, so you take the best player up there even though you may have a stack at that position and you let them jump in and compete."

Reid said Gaddis probably would compete for a job at safety, where he'll join Sean Considine, Quintin Mikell and his fellow Clemson product Brian Dawkins.

"I know B. Dawk is the man," Gaddis said. "I have met him a couple times and I'm just proud to have the chance to even follow in that man's shoes. First and foremost, I'm just a big fan of his, so it's a pleasure to go in the same secondary with the guy. B. Dawk is a legend at Clemson."

Gaddis was the first of two players with a strong baseball background to be taken by the Eagles today. He was a 20th-round draft choice by the Seattle Mariners after his senior year at Hoke County High School in North Carolina, but decided football was the sport for him.

The other player with baseball ties was Barksdale, who spent just one season playing college football after giving up on his baseball dream last summer. He admitted to being shocked when the Eagles selected him in the sixth round.

"Yeah, certainly shocked," Barksdale said. "I had no intention [of] even trying to go to the NFL when I came out for the team. I just wanted to be part of a group, stay busy. Sports have always been a very important part of my life. My goals for baseball came up short and I had another year of eligibility."

Celek, best known for a highlight-reel 83-yard touchdown catch and run in Cincinnati's win that ruined Rutgers' bid for a perfect season last fall, could become the first Eagles draft pick to see significant playing time. With starting tight end L.J. Smith in the last year of his contract, Celek, 6-foot-4 and 261 pounds, should get a long look during the preseason.

"I don't know what the situation is going to be like going up there," Celek said. "I've seen L.J. Smith play a couple of times and he's a great player - a real great player. I'm from the Cincinnati area, so [backup tight end] Matt Schobel used to play for the Bengals, and I used to watch him a lot and he's a real good player. I can't wait to get up there and work with those guys."

Ilaoa, 5-9 and 248 pounds, is another running back with considerable size, something the Eagles also took when they selected Penn State's Hunt in the third round Saturday. Ilaoa rushed for 990 yards on 131 carries during his senior season at Hawaii and caught 67 passes for 837 yards. He also scored 18 touchdowns.

Extra points. The Eagles did not take an offensive lineman in the draft for just the second time in the Reid era. The last time was 2002, which is regarded by many as the team's best draft under Reid. . . . The Eagles went to work immediately after the draft trying to sign what Reid described as "a handful" of undrafted free agents. . . . The team will hold its post-draft minicamp from May 11 to 13 with the players reporting to the NovaCare Complex on May 10. . . . Reid confirmed that quarterback Donovan McNabb, rehabilitating from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, will not participate in the team's minicamps but is expected to be ready for the start of training camp in late July.


Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or bbrookover@phillynews.com.

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