“There’s a lot of good in Odell,” Richt said. “He’s made mistakes along the way, but the guy is definitely worth an opportunity to play in that league.”
Safarrah Lawson, Thurman’s agent, said the support of the Georgia coaching staff has helped Thurman tremendously in the eyes of pro teams. Thurman was kicked off the team by Richt in 2002 after the culmination of several undisclosed breaches of team etiquette and also was suspended for the first three games of the 2004 season for a violation of team rules.
“The best thing he’s got going for him is the coaches at Georgia speak glowingly of the kid,” Lawson said. “The coaches have really stood up for him.”
Lawson acknowledges he and Thurman have been peppered with questions about Thurman’s character.
“We’ve had to answer it a lot,” Lawson said. “Teams have done their due diligence. We feel like right now teams are comfortable. There may be some teams that pass, but most teams we feel are comfortable with him.”
Last week, Lawson and Thurman had to address an Internet rumor that Thurman was involved in the fight that just got current Bulldogs Kedric Golston and Derrick White suspended.
“It was totally false,” Lawson said. “We think that was spread by an agent trying to move his player up in the draft, a rival agent basically.”
Thurman traveled to 10 different cities to visit NFL teams to meet face-to-face with NFL coaches and executives, Lawson said.
“That was the main reason I had the visits I had, just going in and explaining my side of the story,” Thurman said.
Thurman’s mother died when he was 10 years old and his father died two years ago.
“This kid came from a tough background,” Lawson said. “He’s overcome a lot to get where he is and he’s only continuing to mature. He’s good to go now.”
Thurman, whose girlfriend Kara Braxton recently had the couple’s child and was drafted No. 7 overall by the Women’s National Basketball Association, said things in his life are looking up.
“It’s a great time in my life,” he said. “I’m very anxious, but I’m happy. They’re ain’t been a better time that I can recall, knowing what’s going to happen in the next two days.”
Lawson predicts Thurman will be drafted somewhere between the No. 20 and No. 40 today. Jacksonville, New Orleans, Cincinnati, Green Bay, New England and Philadelphia have shown the most interest, Lawson said. That projection fits with what many national analysts are saying. Mel Kiper Jr. thinks Thurman will go to the Philadelphia Eagles with the No. 35 pick, which is early in the second round.
“Anything past the second round would be disappointing,” Thurman said.
QUESTIONS ABOUT QUARTERBACK: It will be an upset if Georgia quarterback David Greene hears his name called today on the first day of the NFL Draft, according to most major mock drafts.
Many analysts, including Kiper, think the winningest quarterback in college football history won’t be selected until the fourth or fifth round. Only the first three rounds of the draft will be held today.
NFL analyst Frank Coyle, who has published Draft Insiders’ Digest for 14 years and operates draftinsiders.com, said he thinks Greene will fall to at least midway through the fifth round and could be taken even later.
“I think he’s a kid that’s accurate in the short game and a savvy kid, smart, but I really question his arm strength at this level,” Coyle said. “I don’t think he’s in the (Kyle) Orton, (Charlie) Frye, (Andrew) Walter, (Jason) Campbell group.”
NFL analysts are making a mistake if they let Greene fall too far, Richt said.
“We don’t know where he’s going to go, but I think he’s going to be a great one,” Richt said. “Of all the guys I’ve coached, I think he has the ability to be the best pro.”
Super Bowl winning quarterback Brad Johnson, former New York Giants starter Danny Kannell, former Washington Redskin Casey Weldon and former Chicago Bear Peter Tom Willis are among the NFL quarterbacks Richt has coached in college.
“I think the team that gets (Green) is going to have a gem,” Richt said. “I think any coach that gets him is going to be real pleased.”
LONG TWO DAYS: Linebacker Arnold Harrison and fullback Jeremy Thomas could be late-round draft picks in the draft, but it’s more likely both of them will be signed as free agents after the draft, Coyle said.
Thomas is the less likely of the two to be drafted, and one of the reasons is the declining role of true fullbacks in the NFL. Most pro teams have started carrying a fourth tight end instead of a second fullback on their rosters, Coyle said.
BIG PARTY: Wide receiver Fred Gibson was planning to officially move out of Athens last Friday. He will watch the draft today with his friends and family at a party in his hometown of Waycross, he said.
“It’s just like high school to college, you just have to step up another level,” Gibson said. “You just have to be productive.”
Analysts across the country have spent the past month trying to figure out which teams will select which players where in this weekend’s draft. Here’s a look at where three mock drafts project Georgia’s draft eligible players will be selected.
David Pollack 18th overall Minnesota Vikings
Thomas Davis 20th overall Dallas Cowboys
Odell Thurman 38th overall Oakland Raiders
Reggie Brown 39th overall Chicago Bears
David Greene 100th overall New England Patriots
Fred Gibson 102nd overall San Francisco 49ers
Mel Kiper Jr.
Thomas Davis 16th overall New Orleans Saints
David Pollack 23rd overall Seattle Seahawks
Odell Thurman 35th overall Philadelphia Eagles
Reggie Brown 61st overall San Diego Chargers
Fred Gibson 97th overall Denver Broncos
David Greene 118th overall New Orleans Saints
David Pollack 18th overall Minnesota Vikings
Thomas Davis 38th overall Oakland Raiders
Odell Thurman 40th overall New Orleans Saints
Fred Gibson 52nd overall Jacksonville Jaguars
Reggie Brown 76th overall Denver Broncos
David Greene 154th overall Minnesota Vikings