Johnathan Cyprien hasn’t had much time of late to catch up with T.Y. Hilton. Since finishing his senior season last December, Cyprien, like several other FIU Panthers, has been on a whirlwind tour preparing for the upcoming NFL Draft.
Cyprien, who became FIU’s all-time leading tackler last season, excelled at the Senior Bowl in January. During the week of Senior Bowl practice, Cyprien was named Most Outstanding Defensive Back and then backed up the award with a solid performance in the game.
Cyprien then caught the eye of NFL scouts at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis in February before producing another outstanding workout at FIU Pro Day in March.
On the heels of Cyprien’s tremendous off-season, the FIU safety was invited by a dozen NFL teams to visit their facilities and had private workouts for half a dozen NFL teams. Since January, Cyprien’s draft stock has skyrocketed on many projected NFL Draft boards and has been talked about by several NFL draft experts as being selected as high as the first round on Thursday night when the 2013 NFL Draft begins.
Should Cyprien be picked in the first round of the NFL Draft, he would become the highest Panther drafted into the NFL surpassing Hilton.
“I’ve kept a clear mind waiting for the draft, been really patient,” Cyprien said. “It would mean a lot to me to be the highest drafted FIU player. It would feel good to have another record in the book. At the same time, I can’t wait for the next Panther to come along and break that record and be drafted even higher than me. That would mean the FIU football program would keep progressing.”
Hilton is currently the highest drafted Panther into the NFL. The Indianapolis Colts selected Hilton in the third round in last April’s draft, which surpassed former FIU linebacker Antwan Barnes, who was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the fifth round in 2007. The late Chandler Williams was also selected in the 2007 draft. Williams was picked by the Minnesota Vikings in the seventh round. Anthony Gaitor was the third FIU player drafted into the NFL when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took him in the seventh round of the 2011 draft.
If Cyprien — who is as humble an athlete as any and is good friends with Hilton — is drafted ahead of FIU’s all-time leading receiver, then Cyprien joked he’ll remind Hilton who is the new highest drafted Panther ever.
“We haven’t really had the chance to talk,” Cyprien said. “I really want to pick his brain about being a rookie in the NFL. If I am drafted ahead of T.Y., I’ll probably let him know about it.”
There have been several teams linked to drafting Cyprien. Among them: the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins, Carolina Panthers, Ravens, Washington Redskins and Cincinnati Bengals. However, it was the Bengals with defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer present, who worked out Cyprien repeatedly in man-to-man pass coverage in a private workout at FIU Stadium earlier this week.
“Every workout was pretty much the same,” Cyprien said. “But with the Bengals they really wanted to see me in man-to-man pass coverage.”
The Steelers wanted to see FIU defensive end Tourek Williams in pass coverage as well. Williams, who could be the second
Panther drafted this weekend into the NFL, is being looked at by several NFL teams as an outside linebacker and by others as a defensive end.
Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler took Williams aside at FIU Pro Day last month and specifically asked Williams to perform pass coverage drills.
“I was prepared for the directional movement stuff,” Williams said of the FIU Pro Day workout with Butler. “Coach Butler came down to FIU specifically to check me out and work me out. He ran me through some drills that linebackers do in pass coverage.”
Williams was already familiar with dropping back in pass coverage since he was asked to do so several times throughout his FIU career.
“The coverages don’t change in football,” Williams said. “It’s simple stuff for me. In fact, it might have been more challenging for me to drop back in coverage when I was playing on the defensive line at FIU. Dropping back in coverage before in college helped me out when I was asked to do it as a linebacker.”
Williams visited and worked out for the Steelers, Atlanta Falcons and Dolphins. Ironically, the Steelers just lost linebacker James Harrison as a free agent signing to the Bengals, who may draft Cyprien.
Like Cyprien, Williams is approaching the draft with a sense of calm. Williams is enjoying the attention from NFL teams that he did not get in high school from college football teams with the exception of FIU.
“I have been getting a lot of phone calls from NFL teams,” Williams said. “To be honest, I’m excited, but I’m not getting caught up in the hype. When my name is called I will be ready.”
FIU offensive lineman Caylin Hauptmann and kicker Jack Griffin also hope to have their names called this weekend by an NFL team, whether it is in the draft or as a free agent signing.
In the last few months NFL teams have consistently contacted Hauptmann, who at 6-4, 312 pounds could provide a team with a solid tackle option. Hauptmann has visited and worked out for the Green Bay Packers and Oakland Raiders.
Griffin graduated from FIU as the program’s all-time leader in points (258), extra points (114), field goals (48) and field
goal percentage (77.4). Now Griffin hopes to be kicking for an NFL team this fall. Griffin worked out for the Detroit Lions and Dolphins earlier this year. The Denver Broncos and Houston Texans are interested in Griffin and have called him several times.
Regardless of where they are drafted or how they make it into the NFL, several Panthers will be eagerly watching the 2013 NFL Draft starting Thursday or as Cyprien described the sentiment for him and his FIU teammates: “It’s the NFL Draft, no one really has an idea where or when you get picked, but we’ll be on the edge of our seats excited to hear our names called.”
–By Pete Pelegrin