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Syracuse football celebrates its past at the NFL Draft

The Syracuse captains approach mid-field before the game.
The Syracuse captains approach mid-field before the game.

NFL Draft weekend is not usually a momentous occasion for Syracuse. The Orange haven’t had a first round pick since Justin Pugh in 2013, and haven’t had three players chosen in the same draft since 2013. If you want to find the last time SU had four players taken, you have to go all the way back to 2006.

While none of those demons were exercised for Dino Babers’ program in the 2023 Draft, it was still a momentous occasion. Matthew Bergeron was selected 38th overall by the Atlanta Falcons, an early second round pick. While the first round curse still exists, Bergeron was the highest drafted Syracuse player and first to be selected earlier than the third round since Pugh.

Bergeron was announced as a guard rather than tackle, which he played for four years at SU.’s Brent Axe expected him to move to the interior in the NFL, based on conversations with scouts. While Bergeron wants to play left tackle at the next level, he believes his size, athleticism and intelligence allow him to play any of the five offensive line positions if asked to.

Syracuse’s other drafted player was Garrett Williams, who was chosen in the third round, 72nd overall, by the Arizona Cardinals. Williams became a staple in SU’s defensive secondary in 2020, and remained just that until week nine of last season, when the corner tore his ACL against Notre Dame.

Despite the injury, Williams was still a night two selection, and hopes to be the next in line of SU defensive backs in the NFL, following in the footsteps of Andre Cisco, Ife Melifonwu and Trill Williams, who all turned pro in 2021.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the weekend was Sean Tucker not being drafted. SU’s single season rushing champion dealt with injuries throughout the draft process, which forced him to have his own pro day the week of the draft rather than going through the regular testing regiment that prospects have. Tucker was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Linebacker Mikel Jones also went undrafted and signed with the Los Angeles Chargers, while kicker Andre Szmyt inked a deal with the Chicago Bears.

Despite it not being the perfect weekend, the NFL Draft was a time for Syracuse football to reflect on and celebrate its recent past, led by a group of players who led SU to a bowl game for the first time since 2018.