A DRAFT THREEPEAT
It is indeed rare that within the space of 357 days that three athletes from three adjoining rural counties are selected in the first round of major sports drafts. Such was the case between May 8,2014 and April 30, 2015 during two NFL drafts and one NBA draft. As for now, I will say that this triple take has never happened before. I will wait until one of you sports trivia experts quickly prove me wrong.
It all began on May 8, 2014 when the Cincinnati Bengals chose Darqueze Dennard of Twiggs County, Georgia in the NFL’s annual draft. Six weeks later on June 26, the San Diego Clippers picked Brian Craig, aka “C.J.”, Wilcox, a native of Dublin, Georgia, as their first pick in the 2014 NBA draft. To complete the triad, the Pittsburgh Steelers, tabbed Alvin “Bud” Dupree from neighboring Wilkinson County as their first round pick in this year’s NFL draft.
Darqueze Dennard hails from the tiny Twiggs County town of Dry Branch, Georgia. This rather light defensive back was the 24th choice of the Cincinnati Bengals in last year’s NFL Draft. Dennard was a member of the 2013 Big Ten champion and 2014 Rose Bowl champion Michigan State Spartans. A unanimous All-American choice in 2013, Dennard was selected by the Jim Thorpe Association as the winner of the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s best collegiate defensive back. Dennard was among the top five finalists for the Football Writers Association of America’s Bronco Nagurski Trophy as the nation’s best defensive college player.
A three-sport star for the Twiggs County Cobras, Dennard played both defensive back and wide receiver. Although his stats as an offensive player were good, a few college scouts saw more promise in his defensive ability to read the quarterback and his speed in moving toward the football. In his senior year, Dennard finished second in the Class A 100-meter dash.
Considered only as a two-star recruit, Michigan State took a chance on Dennard, who missed nearly half of his freshman season due to an injury. As a sophomore, Dennard began to show the skills his recruiters had seen in him. Two of his 42 tackles came against the Georgia Bulldogs in the 2012 Outback Bowl. Dennard continued to improve during his junior season and finished his final season with 62 tackles.
Brian Craig "C. J." Wilcox was born in Dublin, Georgia on December 30, 1990. Raised by his grandmother down the road in Eastman, Wilcox moved to Utah with his father Craig Wilcox, a Dodge County basketball star and former BYU basketball player. The 6'6" shooting guard was the 28th pick by the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the 2014 NBA draft.
Young Wilcox didn’t take long to prove that he was a “chip of the old block. In his preteens, Wilcox began to stand out in AAU games. He played high school ball at Pleasant Grove High Vikings, where he averaged 22.2 points per game.
Utah colleges began to take notice, most notably. Utah, Utah State and Brigham Young. Wilcox decided to leave home and sign with the University of Washington Huskies.
After being redshirted in his first season in 2009-10, Wilcox was named to the Pac-10 All Freshman Team. As a sophomore, Wilcox was tabbed as an Honorable Mention to the All Pac-10 team for his deadly three-point shooting. Wilcox moved up to the Second Team All Pac-12 during his junior season after finishing with the 11th highest single season point total in Huskie history.
For the second time, Wilcox was selected to the Second Team All Pac-12 despite the fact that he finished his career as the second highest scorer, fifth in blocked shots, first in three-pointers (6th in Pac-12 history,) and ranks as one of only three players in conference history to score 1700 points.
Alvin Dupree - his friends call him “Bud” - was born in Macon, Georgia and grew up in Wilkinson County, Georgia. Dupree was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers as the 22nd pick in the first round of last month’s NFL draft.
Dupree attended Wilkinson County High School in Irwinton, Georgia. During his senior season for the Warriors, Dupree played both ways, scored 10 touchdowns and garnered more than more than 1000 yards in receiving yards. Only a three-star recruit, the six-foot, four-inch Dupree, a first team all state player, tackled 62 runners and sacked the opposing quarterbacks, 10 times.
Dupree signed with the University of Kentucky Wildcats. In his freshman year, the 269-pound defensive end, played in twelve games. In the same number of games in his sophomore season, the big lineman jumped from 21 tackles to 91 tackles for a career season high.
A steady performer on defense, Dupree was named to the first team of the All Southeastern Conference in his senior season in 2014 finishing his career with 247 tackles and 23.5 sacks.
The book has yet to be written on Darqueze Dennard, “C.J.” Wilcox and “Bud” Dupree. Dennard, hampered by the lack of playing time in his rookie season, tackled opposing players seventeen times in four games. Dupree, plagued by injuries which forced him to start the 2014-15 season with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, managed only to appear in only 21 games this season and scored two points as he looks forward to the fall and a chance to play full time. And, of course, the recently drafted “Bud” Dupree has yet to don a Steeler uniform.
It is well worth remembering that Wilcox and Dupree were only three star recruits out of high school while Dennard was only rated as a two-star player. Only one of the three, Dennard, were chosen as an All-American and Wilcox didn’t make the first all conference team.
It shall also be noted that Demaryius “Bay Bay” Thomas (left) was the first person from this area to be drafted in the first round of a major professional league draft when he became the 22nd pick of the Denver Broncos of the first round of the 2010 NFL draft. Of the four area players in five years, Thomas was the most highly heralded both coming out of high school and college.
The record of being the highest pick from this area goes to McIntyre’s Georgia’s Kevin Brown, (left) who was selected by the Texas Rangers as the 4th overall pick in the 1986 MLB draft.
But I must say that coming in second in the ranks of highest selected local player in a professional draft goes to my classmate Tina Price Cochran, who was selected as the 15th overall pick in the 1978 Women’s Professional Basketball League. The former Dublin and University of Georgia basketball and tennis star was chosen by the team from Washington, D.C, which was relocated and renamed the Dayton Rockettes. Tina (below) gave up basketball and tennis to return home to Dublin to raise a fine family and share her blessings with her students in Dublin city schools.