At one time, Da'Quan Bowers was considered a good bet to be the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft.
In the end, the defensive end from Clemson wasn't even the first Tigers defensive lineman taken in the draft.
Bowers' slide finally ended Friday night, when he was chosen by Tampa Bay with the 19th pick of the second round, the 51st pick overall. That was behind teammate Jarvis Jenkins, a defensive tackle taken with the ninth pick in the second round by Washington, the 41st pick overall.
"I wouldn't have believed it 10 times if you told me 10 times," Jenkins said of being taken before his more heralded teammate.
Clemson safety Marcus Gilchrist also was drafted before Bowers, going in the second round to the Chargers with the 50th pick overall. And South Carolina safety Chris Culliver went in the third round to the 49ers, the 80th pick overall.
Bowers, who led the nation with 15 1/2 sacks last year, saw his draft stock slide because of a knee injury suffered late in the season, an injury that hampered his performance in workouts leading up to the draft.
His slide just leaves him more motivated to prove the critics wrong, he told reporters in Tampa.
"I'm definitely motivated, you know," said Bowers, who went to Bamberg-Ehrhardt High School. "I'm just ready to get in Tampa and show everybody what I'm capable of doing and show them that they picked a great athlete and a great guy. I'm just ready to get down there and go to work."
Bowers, 6-3 and 280 pounds, had a small meniscus tear in his knee in October, but waited until the end of the season to have surgery. That came after a difficult offseason for Bowers, who lost his father, Dennis, in August during Clemson's summer camp. In January, Bowers' mentor, former Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams, died suddenly. Tampa Bay also drafted Adams out of Clemson.
"He was like a big brother to me. I thought the world of him," Bowers said of Adams. "When I was getting recruited by (ex-Clemson coach) Tommy Bowden, Gaines was a junior there, and he came out to camp one day when I was 14 or 15 years old, and we kind of just built a relationship there.
"We exchanged numbers and ever since then, he would always call and check up on me. He'd come pick me up and take me back to Clemson or we'd hang out. He did the things that a big brother would do."
Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik projects Bowers as the Bucs' left defensive end.
"Obviously, we did a lot of research and put a lot of time into this pick," he told reporters. "We're going to do everything we can to get him on the field when it's appropriate for him to be on the field. Right now, the idea is to continue to rehab the knee until he's ready to be on the field."
Dominik said he expects that to be next season, "if we have a season," a reference to the NFL lockout.