April 27, 2013
STANFORD, Calif. - Three former Stanford football players were selected in the 2013 NFL Draft in New York this weekend with tight ends Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo being called alongside running back Stepfan Taylor.
Ertz was chosen by the Philadelphia Eagles with the 35th overall pick (third pick of the second round); Toilolo was selected by the Atlanta Falcons with the 36th pick of the fourth round (133rd overall) and Taylor was called upon by Arizona with the seventh pick of the fifth round (140th overall).
It marked the fourth straight year that Stanford had at least three players drafted. Stanford's 2013 Draft class finished their Cardinal careers with three straight BCS bowl games and a 25-2 record at Stanford Stadium.
In 2012 Ertz became the first unanimous tight end All-America selection since Heath Miller in 2004 with his recognition by all four All-America first teams officially recognized by the NCAA and including a tight end: Associated Press, American Football Coaches Association, Sporting News and Walter Camp Football Foundation.
"I couldn't be happier to be going to play for Coach Kelly and the Eagles," said Ertz. "My mom and dad were both born in Pennsylvania, so it feels like this very cool circle of life. I can't stop thinking about how the Pac-12 gave me my start, and now I will be able to keep playing for a coach that I respected since I started at Stanford. Thank you all for your support."
Ertz led all FBS tight ends during the 2012 season with 69 receptions and 898 receiving yards, both school records at the position. The 6-foot-6 senior led Stanford in receiving in eight of 14 games this season. He caught a career-high 11 passes, including the game-tying touchdown at top-ranked Oregon to send the contest to overtime, while he hauled in the Cardinal's game-winning touchdowns against both No. 2 USC and No. 13 Oregon State.
Toilolo joins fellow Stanford tight end Zach Ertz in the draft after Ertz was selected by Philadelphia in the second round a day earlier. It is commonplace for Stanford tight ends in the NFL these days as Toilolo becomes the seventh Cardinal big target in the NFL, joining Ertz, Coby Fleener (Indianapolis), Jim Dray (Arizona), Konrad Reuland (N.Y. Jets), Evan Moore(Philadelphia) and Alex Smith (Cincinnati).
"I'm beyond excited right now. I'm looking forward to being a part of the Falcons organization," said Toilolo. "I'll be able to learn from Tony Gonzalez, a future Hall of Famer and one of the best to ever play the position in the game. I can't wait to get out there to Atlanta, get to work and be a part of this team."
At 6 foot 8, 265 pounds, Toilolo (pronounced Toy-lo-lo) started 14 games and was a valuable asset as both a blocker and pass-catcher. He totaled 393 yards and four touchdowns on 24 receptions this year, leading all Stanford receivers with 16.4 yards per catch. All four of his TDs came from inside the red zone. With the NFL featuring matchups in key situations, Toilolo is projected to be a key target in those same situations at the next level.
With Ertz and Toilolo hearing their names called this weekend, Stanford has now had five tight ends drafted in the past nine years, joining Fleener (Indianapolis/2012/2nd), Dray (Arizona/2010/7th) and Smith (Tampa Bay/ 2005/3rd).
Toilolo's three uncles played in the NFL: Dan Saleaumua for the Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks (1987-98); Edwin Mulitalo for the Baltimore Ravens and Detroit Lions (1999-2008); and Joe Salave'a for the Tennessee Oilers/Titans, San Diego Chargers and Washington Redskins (1998-2001, 2003-06).
Taylor brings some history with him to the state of Arizona, as he rushed for a school-record four touchdowns against the University of Arizona during a 2010 victory.
"It's a blessing to be a part of the Arizona Cardinals' (organization)," said Taylor. "This is the perfect situation for me. I want to thank the Stanford family for the last four years, all of their support and best wishes."
Stanford's career rushing leader with 4,300 yards on a school-record 843 carries, Taylor was a productivity machine throughout his time on The Farm. Taylor collected 40 career rushing touchdowns (second in school history) and 45 total touchdowns (first).
In 2012, Taylor became the first Stanford player to record three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons.
All told, Taylor collected 1,530 rushing yards in 2012, the second-highest in school history with 13 rushing touchdowns. He added 287 yards and two more scores on 41 receptions out of the backfield and had eight 100-yard rushing performances on the season.
Attention now turns to the undrafted free agent market, which will be active throughout the coming weeks. Of the 25 Stanford football players on active NFL rosters, 12 started their journeys as undrafted free agents.