Third round the charm for Reed, Huskies

UConn's Dwayne Gratz, right, and Sio Moore make a tackle in a game against UMass on Aug. 30, 2012 at Rentschler Field. UConn's Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Gratz, Moore and former New London star Jordan Reed were all picked in the NFL draft.
Buy Photo Tim Cook/The Day UConn's Dwayne Gratz, right, and Sio Moore make a tackle in a game against UMass on Aug. 30, 2012 at Rentschler Field. UConn's Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Gratz, Moore and former New London star Jordan Reed were all picked in the NFL draft.

Dwayne Gratz avoided answering the question the first time.

The second time ... well ... he finally admitted that being the first UConn player selected in the 2013 NFL draft Friday night was pretty special.

"It felt good, I'm not going to lie to you," Gratz said after the Jacksonville Jaguars drafted the cornerback in the third round (No. 64 overall). "I was always the underdog. A lot of people didn't know me. To be the first player from my school selected is an honor."

The 6-foot, 198-pound Gratz, who watched the draft with family members from his home in Piscataway, N.J., was projected to go in the third round, but most experts had him going after teammates Sio Moore and Blidi Wreh-Wilson.

Instead, Gratz went two picks before Moore, a linebacker who went No. 66 to the Oakland Raiders, and Wreh-Wilson, a cornerback who was taken four picks later (No. 70) by the Tennessee Titans.

New London's Jordan Reed, a tight end who left Florida a year early to make himself eligible for the draft, also went in the third round to the Washington Redskins with the No. 85 overall pick. Reed's older brother David, a wide receiver, is a member of the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.

Gratz said the Jaguars visited Storrs after UConn's Pro Day to work out all three Husky draft hopefuls, so he wasn't surprised when new Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley called him right after the third round began (the Jags had the second pick of that round).

"I knew they believed in my abilities," Gratz said during a conference call Friday night. "I had a good feeling about them. They need help at the cornerback position. They're looking for someone to compete and become a starter ... that's where I envision myself."

Gratz, a three-year starter, was a two-time All-Big East second team selection. Gratz and Wreh-Wilson were one of the Big East's best cornerback combination. Both will bring a physical presence to their respective new teams, as well excellent corner speed.

Gratz had eight career interceptions for the Huskies and returned two for touchdowns, including a 46-yard return for a TD against Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl his sophomore season. Wreh-Wilson (6-2, 190) also had eight interceptions and a pair of TDs.

Moore, the Huskies' emotional leader and a first-team All-Big East selection, is projected as an outside linebacker for the Raiders at 6-2, 229, but he has played inside, too. He began opening eyes as a sophomore when he had 17 tackles, forced two fumbles and recovered both in an upset victory over West Virginia.

"I'm glad I went to Oakland Raiders," said Moore. "The Oakland Raiders know they've got the best linebacker in the draft. They know who I am and they believe in me."

As for Reed, who was converted to a tight end at Florida after playing quarterback for the Whalers, getting the call from Washington was a surprise

"I haven't had any contact with them at all, honestly," Reed told Zac Boyer of The Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va. "It was pretty much I had no idea I was going to get picked by Washington. It was a big surprise to me. I'm just so excited."

The 6-2, 243-pound Reed had a breakthrough season in 2012 when he earned All-SEC honors by catching 45 passes for 559 yards and three TDs.

"I started feeling comfortable honestly this year, my second year playing the position," Reed told Boyer. "I really started getting more reps all season and got better and better each year."

c.banning@theday.com

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