Many of the more intriguing storylines from this weekend's NFL Draft involved former Oklahoma players.
Lane Johnson's meteoric rise, Landry Jones' baffling fall and the continued chances taken on oft-suspended Stacy McGee are just a few of the interesting Oklahoma-related angles that emerged from the weekend.
Still, none was more shocking than that of undrafted safety Tony Jefferson — once considered the second coming of Roy Williams — who signed a free-agent contract with the Arizona Cardinals after the draft ended Saturday.
For lots of marginal NFL prospects, signing as an undrafted free agent is cause for celebration. Jefferson, though, never could've envisioned entering professional football like this. Only three years ago, Jefferson, ranked as the fourth-best safety nationally in his recruiting class, graduated high school early to participate in Oklahoma's spring practices and made an immediate impression.
Jefferson started nine games his true freshman season at nickelback, was named a first-team freshman All-American and the Big 12's Defensive Freshman of the Year.
His promising career arguably peaked during his sophomore year. Jefferson intercepted passes on three consecutive Ball State possessions in an early season rout, then picked off another pass a week later in the Sooners' 58-17 blowout of archrival Texas.
But it was that season when Jefferson began suffering a string of tough injuries. He played much of 2011 on a sprained knee. Then, in the second game of last season, he suffered a high-ankle sprain and struggled with it all year.
Jefferson seemed to reach the low point of his college career after Oklahoma's 50-49 shoot-out victory at West Virginia. The Mountaineers racked up a staggering 778 yards of total offense, and Jefferson frequently missed tackles, was out of position and got burned by West Virginia superstars Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.
“Horrible game by me,” Jefferson tweeted after the game. “You can start the bashing. I deserve it. Sorry y'all.”
Jefferson's performance was similarly subpar in his career finale, Oklahoma's 41-13 Cotton Bowl loss to Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M. A few days after the rout, he announced his decision to bolt for the NFL Draft and leave one more year of college eligibility on the table.
ESPN.com ranked Jefferson as the draft's fifth-best safety prospect at the time. He was invited to February's NFL Scouting Combine, but ran a disappointing 4.75 40-yard dash there.
Despite the slow 40 time and a widely disputed Internet report questioning his work ethic and attitude at OU, Jefferson was still thought of as a mid-round draft prospect. The first inkling that Jefferson might go unselected came a day before the draft, when Scouts, Inc., released a full, seven-round mock draft that didn't include the 2012 second-team All-American.
Twenty-one safeties were drafted throughout the three-day event, but Jefferson's name was never called. NFL.com contributor Gil Brandt, the former chief scout for the Dallas Cowboys, didn't include Jefferson on his list ranking the 10 best undrafted free agent defensive backs.
A short while after the draft ended, he announced on Twitter that he'd signed with the Cardinals and would “do it for the non believers in Arizona.”
Jefferson sent a string of tweets later Saturday, telling his fans not to feel sorry for him.
“Blessed beyond measure! I love football. Regardless the circumstances Ima ball player everyone who passed me up, will feel me Point blank son,” Jefferson tweeted.
“And please don't feel bad for me! Have yu not read Matthew 19:30? But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
“God drafted me January 27th 1992. Who else do I really needed be drafted by? To god be the glory!”