CLEMSON -- Disbelief and despair. That's what former Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel felt at the conclusion of the NFL draft last weekend.
McDaniel was expected to be taken as early as the third round. Instead, he went undrafted.
The hard-hitting safety who displayed his game-altering talents on a single play in 2009 -- intercepting a pass from Florida State's Christian Ponder and then delivering a crushing blow to the quarterback as he tried to tackle McDaniel on the interception return -- watched 253 other players selected.
McDaniel waited three days but his phone call never came.
"I was real shocked," McDaniel said. "It was something I never expected. It was a humbling experience."
McDaniel believes his drop was mainly due to a fractured wrist that will require surgery.
McDaniel elected to play through the injury as a senior, telling NFL teams he would have surgery after his rookie season. But those teams expressed concerns about his wrist.
"They felt like I was going to need surgery and miss (2011)," McDaniel said. "I got it checked at the combine, but when I went back for a recheck the weekend of (Clemson's) spring game, everyone was seeing that it was still fractured."
The wrist hurt McDaniel's stock, as did a modest 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Moreover, his game tape from 2010 was not as impressive as when he had eight interceptions in 2009, second best in the country.
Still, McDaniel was stunned that he went unselected. Also surprised were his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, and Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, who gave McDaniel a call after the draft. Former teammate Da'Quan Bowers texted McDaniel, telling him to keep his head up. Bowers also saw his draft stock plummet because of a knee injury.
"The only positive is I get to pick what team I go to," McDaniel said of being an undrafted free agent.
McDaniel's wait will continue because undrafted free agents cannot sign with teams until the NFL players come to a new collective bargaining agreement with NFL owners.
While he waits, McDaniel is working out with a personal trainer in Tallahassee, Fla.
"I'm very motivated," McDaniel said. "As long as I get a shot on team, once I get a chance ... I'm confident I'll make a team. My goal is to go in with a chip on my shoulder."
McDaniel returned for his senior season in part because the 2010 draft was viewed as rich in safeties with Tennessee's Eric Berry, Southern Cal's Taylor Mays and Texas' Earl Thomas. McDaniel received a third round grade last year.
Still, McDaniel says he has no regrets.
"I feel like I got what I came back for and that's my degree," McDaniel said. "I didn't get a championship, but I feel like I had pretty good season."
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