It took longer that he wanted or perhaps expected, but Cyrus Kouandjio is ready to be a professional football player.
The 6-foot-6, 322-pound left tackle waited more than four hours inside Radio City Music Hall in New York City on Thursday night during the first round of the NFL Draft not hearing his named called. He waited another 12 picks into the second round, but his name finally called when the Buffalo Bills drafted him with the 44 overall pick.
Kouandjio, who appeared agitated he wasn't selected early, said he's ready to prove to those teams which didn't pick him that they made a mistake.
"I was nervous the whole time," Kouandjio told the NFL Network. "I'm just relieved, glad it's finally over with. It's onto something different. Buffalo is excited, happy to receive me. I'm glad to be in Buffalo. Buffalo is where I need to be. It's the perfect place to hone my craft."
Prior to his junior season, Kouandjio was viewed as a top 10 pick by NFL draft analysts, but an arthritic knee conditioned stemming from an ACL injury in 2011 and a shaky bowl performance caused him to slip down on teams' draft boards.
NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport reported earlier in the day Friday that Kouandjio wasn't on many teams' draft boards due to his knee injury. Rapoport reported Alabama doctor Lyle Cain said theere are no "short-term concerns for cartilage wear. Only short terms." Cain said any issues from knee injury would come in "5-6 years."
Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley expressed no hesitation in drafting Kouandjio.
"We had a first-round grade on Cyrus," Whaley said. "He's a protypical right tackle. We trust our medical evaluation regarding knee injuries for Kouandjio. It has no bearing on his long-term future.
"You can't teach aggressiveness and toughness. He's brings both. We solidified our offensive line."
UA coach Nick Saban said multiple times that Kouandjio's knee was never a problem and that he doesn't foresee it being a problem that would prevent a team from drafting him.
Kouandjio said his fall into the second round will fuel him.
"I know I have a lot more motivation now that I made it past the first round," Kouandjio said. "I'm happy, though."
Draft analyst Mike Mayock said the Bills will likely move Kouandjio to right tackle.
"Look, he fell mostly because of his knee injury and the talk surrounding it," Mayock said. "He's a big powerful starting left tackle, but I think he's a right tackle at this level. He's really long and he'll be a powerful, driving right tackle. He has average feet as you saw in the Oklahoma game. He can block, he's strong and he's touch."
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