The University of Colorado alumni's recent athletic success at the professional level is not necessarily new. It was certainly not the first (or last) time a Colorado player was drafted into the NFL, NBA, NWSL or any other major league. But after a period of relative hibernation, the Buffaloes have made a roaring return to reclaim their reputation in the realm of professional sports. Simply put, the Buffs are back, and the whole world knows it.
In the last 10 years, there have been only two NFL drafts in which a Colorado player was selected earlier than the fourth round. In that same period of time, only three players have been drafted to the NBA from CU. But 2017 saw both.
In April, there were three Buffs taken in the first four rounds of the NFL Draft - Defensive backs Chidobe Awuzie, Tedric Thompson and Akhello Witherspoon. Defensive tackle Jordan Carrell was also drafted into the NFL, while several other Buffs signed free-agent deals or earned rookie camp invitations. In June, Derrick White was selected 29th overall by the San Antonio Spurs. Colorado women's soccer star Danica Evans was taken 22nd overall in the NWSL Draft.
For Colorado athletic director Rick George, these drafts have been an acknowledgment of the University's ability to recruit and develop talent.
National media attention followed many of the pro-bound Buffs in 2017. The vaunted 'Money Gang' secondary was one of the most statistically disruptive in the country, driving Colorado into the rankings and the national conversation. Two of its members also found the spotlight on draft day, as Awuzie was selected following a memorable speech by former Dallas Cowboy Drew Pearson, and the Seahawks' heartwarming video of Thompson's draft reaction went viral.
"Those were two of the biggest stories during [the NFL] Draft," George said, "and then Derrick White was one of the bigger stories. It's hard to put a price to that, but I think the credibility that it gives both of those programs and the exposure that it gives our University is really valuable."
As the Buffs continue to strive for higher-ranked recruits and new waves of young talent, the shine lent to them by the NFL and NBA drafts is propelling them to another level.
"This is one of the greatest places in the country and we should be able to recruit the very best in whatever it is we do," George said.