The New York Jets selected Ohio State DE Vernon Gholston with the sixth overall selection in the 2008 NFL Draft. Gholston, who will line up at outside linebacker in the Jets' 3-4 defensive front, finished second in the nation last season with 14 sacks and also collected 15.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage.
"With Jake Long gone, there were five names we were comfortable with and Vernon was obviously one of those guys," said Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum. "We spent a lot of time with Vernon on and off the field and we think he'll fit in well here. He can help in all phases of our defense. He can rush the passer and he does a good job of setting the edge in the run game. He plays over the tight end as well. There are a lot of different things he can do and that's why we're excited to have him."
Gholston, who waited in the green room at Radio City Music Hall before hearing his name called by commissioner Roger Goodell, said he got a favorable reaction from fans.
"It was crazy," he said. "When we got to the sixth pick and I was still on the board, they starting chanting my name and everything, so I guess they anticipated it."
At Ohio State, Gholston started 25 games and finished his college career with 87 tackles (47 solo) and 30.5 stops behind the line. His 22.5 sacks rank fifth in school history.
"Vernon's got to come in and establish a role and we look forward to him doing that," said head coach Eric Mangini. "One of the things I liked about him was his flexibility and being able to see him, as Mike said, line up over the tight end, drop into coverage and do a lot of other things that they do at Ohio State. I think Ohio State is an excellent defense and requires their players to do a lot of things."
"A lot of people miss the fact that I did play some outside linebacker at college," Gholston said. "It's something I'm used to doing and I've been doing it at Ohio State and I can do it on the next level."
The 6'4", 258-pounder has freakish speed for a big man, having been timed at 4.56 in the 40-yard dash. He also excels in the weightroom and put up a team-best 455 pounds on the bench press.
"He's very powerful at the point of attack. He had 37 [reps] on the [225-pound] bench, which gives some indication of the sheer power that he has, and then he's got good edge speed as well," Mangini said. "So he's got a lot of different attributes as to how he's going to play at the true outside linebacker position versus other guys."
Gholston, a Detroit native, was too big to play in the city's Police Athletic League and local elementary public schools did not have football programs. But he became a top recruit at Cass Tech High School after posting six sacks and 75 tackles his senior season.
"Vernon's mother put him into Cass High School out of the Detroit area with the initial thinking that he'd go to the University of Michigan for academic reasons. Obviously — due to his football ability — that changed," Tannenbaum said. "But we think his best football is ahead of him. He only played two years of high school football, so we think in our program he'll have a chance to develop and get better."
After Gholston made a number of stops in New York City, he was transported to Weeb Ewbank Hall. His first stop was the auditorium and a talk with Mangini, Tannenbaum and Jets owner Woody Johnson.
"It was just a proud moment for me," Gholston said. "I thanked them for bringing me in and making me part of the team, and I told them I'll work hard for them."
Note: Gholston called newyorkjets.com after he was selected. You can listen to the audio interview now!