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Slauson's a Versatile, Tough Sixth-Rounder


OL Matt Slauson

Logic dictated that after fortifying his defense in free agency, Jets head coach Rex Ryan would turn to offense in the draft.

Ryan said hey, not so fast, I just might want to go defense with our first pick.

But no, the Jets finished up the smallest draft class in team history — three selections (four if you count the trade for Lito Sheppard) — and all three were spent on offensive players.

The final piece to this draft jigsaw was the selection of Matt Slauson, the Nebraska guard, in the sixth round with the 193rd pick of the draft.

All three players sounded pleased as punch to be new Jets, but Slauson is really happy that his cross-country odyssey has now led him to Florham Park, N.J.

"This is a huge honor and I could not be happier now," Slauson told late this afternoon. "I can't wait to get in there for the rookie minicamp next week."

His eagerness is understandable because he'll be reunited with one of his Cornhuskers coaches. Bill Callahan left as Nebraska's head coach after the 2006 season and has been tutoring the Jets' offensive linemen the past two seasons.

"It means so much to be back with Coach Callahan," Slauson said. "He was the entire reason I came to Nebraska. He took a shot on me, an underrated guy. He took a shot in the dark on me, he put his faith in me, and I wouldn't be where I am today without him.

"And he's a great offensive line coach. It'll be great to be working with him again."

That cross-country trek I referred to earlier began in Oregon, where he grew up and became a three-sport star (football, basketball, track) at Sweet Home High. Then he and his family moved to Colorado Springs, where he finished up at Air Academy High. Then on to Nebraska and now all the way to North Jersey.

Slauson's got some great guard size for the pros at 6'5" and 316. And he also has that coveted positional versatility. "I can play all the line positions," he said. "I've even started snapping so that I can work at center." He played RG at UN, earning All-Big 12 second-team honors as a senior.

So why did he slide into Round 6? One reason may have been his health. A week before the February NFL Combine workouts, he tore his pectoral muscle. He attended the combine and turned in some decent numbers — among all O-linemen, his 34.0" vertical jump was third, his 9'2" broad jump tied for third. But he didn't participate in the 225-pound benchpress.

Then at his pro day, he did the bench — and retore his pec during the test. "I still did 23 reps," he said. "I gutted it out."

Some O-line candidates would be happy with 23 reps while healthy. Slauson clearly has guts and he could be a sixth-round steal for his new East Coast team, which he's already embraced.

"I really feel like I've found a home at the Jets," he said. "I'm back with my old coach and I could not be more excited. To play for such adamant fans of their football team, this is going to be great."

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