April 19, 2000
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - Ten members of the 1999 University of Virginia football team will begin their professional careers in the coming weeks as spring mini-camps begin for NFL teams. Four Cavaliers were selected in last weekend's NFL draft, while six undrafted players signed free agent contracts with clubs following the draft.
Thomas Jones was the first Cavalier selected in the annual draft. He was taken seventh overall by the Arizona Cardinals. This marks the second year in a row that Virginia has had a first round selection. Last season defensive end Patrick Kerney was taken in the first round by Atlanta. Jones is also the 11th Cavalier picked in the first round and the highest selection since Jim Dombrowski went as the sixth pick to New Orleans in 1996. Jones finished a stellar career as UVa's all-time leading rusher with 3998 yards. He was a consensus All-American last season after setting ACC and school records with 1798 yards rushing and 2054 all-purpose yards.
John St. Clair was selected in the third round (94 pick overall) by the Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams. Similiar to Jones, St. Clair was the second center picked (Northern Iowa's Brad Meester was selected by Jacksonville in the second round). St. Clair received the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the top blocker in the ACC this season and capped his season by being named to several All-American teams.
Linebacker Shannon Taylor was the first of two Cavaliers to go in the sixth round. He was selected by San Diego as the 184th overall choice. He started every game for Virginia last season and led the team with 81 tackles. A tremendous athlete, he originally came to UVa as a quarterback. Taylor was a second-team All-ACC choice in 1999 and tied for seventh in the league with 15 tackles for lost yardage.
Defensive back Antwan Harris was chosen by the New England Patriots three choices after Taylor. Harris, who ran the fastest time at the NFL combine in February, started at cornerback and safety for Virginia. Considered by George Welsh to be the Cavaliers' best cover defender, Harris battled injuries throughout his career and never played a full season. He played in seven games in 1999 and made a career-high 35 tackles. He will long be remembered for one of the greatest single plays in school history. As a true freshman in 1996 he intercepted a North Carolina pass and raced 95 yards for a touchdown to spark the Cavaliers to a come-from-behind victory over the Tar Heels.
Virginia's free agent signees include Maurice Anderson, Casey Crawford, Noel LaMontagne, Donnie Scott, Anthony Southern and Dwayne Stukes.
Anderson, a defensive tackle, signed with the New England Patriots. He turned in the best season of his career last fall with 74 tackles, the third-most by a defensive tackle in school history.
Crawford, a first-team All-ACC tight end in 1998, was signed by the Carolina Panthers. He was plagued by injuries his last three seasons at Virginia, including missing five games this past fall. He established career highs (despite playing in only six games) last season in receptions (11), yards (183) and touchdowns (one).
LaMontagne joins ex-Cavaliers Percy Ellsworth, Terry Kirby, Ryan Kuehl and Wali Rainer on the Cleveland Browns. A two-time first-team All-ACC selection at guard and an All-American in 1999, LaMontagne was instrumental in paving the way for Thomas Jones as the Cardinals' first round draft pick rushed for over 1300 yards each of the last two seasons.
Scott joins Crawford on the Carolina Panthers. As UVa's punter the last two seasons, Scott averaged 41.6 yards per kick. In his career at UVa he boomed 29 punts of 50+ yards and buried 38 inside the 20-yard line.
Southern proved valuable from his fullback spot by helping spring Jones for long gains. Although he didn't get a chance to carry the ball often (24 combined carries the last two years), Southern was adept at pass receiving. This season he hauled in 16 passes for 164 yards and one score. For his career he caught 43 passes for an 11.5-yard average.
Stukes, like Harris, battled injuries throughout the last two seasons. He missed four games this season, but still managed to make 28 tackles and intercept two passes. He made a season-high eight tackles in Virginia's upset of Georgia Tech last November.