Published April 28. 2012 4:00AM
Kendall Reyes was hopeful, but not overly optimistic, that his name would be called during Thursday night's opening round of the NFL draft.
"I definitely didn't expect much," he admitted.
But Friday was a whole different story.
"I knew today was finally the big day," the UConn senior said moments after he was drafted in the second round by the San Diego Chargers. "I was anxious, nervous, excited ... a whole bunch of emotions all bottled up in one."
Reyes, a 6-foot-4, 299 pound defensive tackle, was selected with the 17th pick of the second round and 49th overall. The Chargers made defense a priority, taking South Carolina defensive end Melvin Ingram in the first round and LSU safety Brandon Taylor in the third round.
"They want to get better, they want to win (the AFC West) and they want to go far in the playoffs," said Reyes, who took part in a conference call Friday night from a family home in Maine, where he was staying with about 30 relatives and close friends. "And they know they have to strengthen up the defense to get that done."
Reyes, a two-time All-Big East first team selection, can play either inside or outside in San Diego's 3-4 defense. Since playing in the Senior Bowl and taking part in the NFL Combine, Reyes said the Chargers had expressed an interest in his talents. He visited San Diego only two weeks ago to meet coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith.
"You work hard every day and try to do the best you can in college," said Reyes, who was scheduled to board a flight this morning at 5:30 for San Diego. "Obviously, the dream is to make it to the pros. It's something I've trained for and it's something I've aspired to make it to."
Reyes started all but one game for the Huskies over his final three seasons. He had single-season highs of 46 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss as a senior and finished his career with 11.5 sacks and 32.5 tackles for loss.
He becomes the fourth UConn player in the history of the modern draft to go in the first two rounds and is the third highest Husky draft pick overall.
Running back Donald Brown was taken in the first round of the 2009 draft by the Indianapolis Colts (27th overall) and cornerback Darius Butler went to the New England Patriots in the second round (41st overall) in that same draft.
Offensive tackle Will Beatty (Giants, 60th overall) and defensive end Cody Brown (Cardinals, 63rd overall) were also second-round picks in the 2009 draft.
Reyes, who played tight end and linebacker at Nashua North High School but impressed former UConn coach Randy Edsall with his speed and tenacity, is also the first defensive interior lineman to be drafted by the NFL since New London's John Contoulis was selected by the Minnesota Vikings in 1963.