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Saturday, April 24, 2010
NU's Kafka picked by Eagles

By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com

Northwestern senior Corey Wootton told everyone he could before the season that Wildcats quarterback Mike Kafka was going to have a breakout year.

"Everyone looked at me like I was crazy," Wootton said earlier in the week.

On Saturday, he got the last laugh as Kafka followed Wootton (No. 109 by Chicago Bears) in the fourth round of the NFL Draft and was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles at No. 122.

Kafka, a St. Rita High School product, threw for 3,430 yards and 16 touchdowns with a passer rating of 129.26 during his final season at Northwestern.

"Everybody knew he could be a running quarterback," Wootton said. "Many people doubted his passing ability. All offseason he worked on perfecting his drops, perfecting his accuracy. You could see him every week getting that much better. I don't think it was a fluke this past season."

Kafka joins Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick as an Eagles quarterback.

"I know that [quarterbacks coach James] Urban, [offensive coordinator Marty] Mornhinweg, and [coach Andy] Reid all have a great reputation for developing quarterbacks and I'm happy to be a part of that group and learn as much as I can," Kafka said on the Eagles' website. "Absolutely, I'm going to go into a system, and go in there and compete -- whatever I can do to make the team better. That's really all I can do right now. I'm going in and making sure I'm prepared and I'm working hard and do the best I can to help the team."

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald had a feeling Kafka would end up with either the Eagles or the Cleveland Browns.

"I'm excited for him," Fitzgerald said following Saturday's Northwestern spring game. "Just to see the growth that happened. I couldn't be more pleased."

Northwestern defensive back Sherrick McManis gave the Wildcats their third and final draft pick when he was selected in the fifth round by the Houston Texans, at No. 144. McManis had 34 tackles and four interceptions last season.

"I was really nervous for Sherrick not to be able to run a 40 [yard dash]," Fitzgerald said. "For him to go in the fifth round, gosh, if he would have run, he probably would gone in the third."

Illinois also added its third pick of the draft on Saturday. After seeing wide receiver Arrelious Benn and guard Jon Asamoah go on Friday, Illini tight end Mike Hoomanawanui was taken by the St. Louis Rams in the fifth round, 132nd overall.

Eastern Illinois offensive tackle Otis Hudson became the first Panthers' player to be selected in the draft since 1999 when he was taken by the Cincinnati Bengals in the fifth round, 152nd overall. Hudson played at Barrington High School.

Southern Illinois running back Deji Karim, one of the sleepers of the draft, was taken by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the sixth round, 180th overall.

"It's a dream come true," Karim said. "It's surreal right now. I can't believe it's happening. As a matter of fact after the fifth round got over with, I was kind of stressed a little bit. I kind of got nervous. It's all part of the draft. That's why you watch.

"I'm looking forward to do it, doing my part and doing whatever to help Jacksonville Jaguars to get better. Whatever they ask me to do, I'm going to do."

Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at spowers@espnchicago.com.