Jerrod Johnson No. 1 pick in UFL draft

Updated: May 3, 2011, 5:05 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich wasn't taken in last week's NFL draft but the cancer survivor was selected Monday night in the United Football League draft.

Herzlich was drafted in the 10th round by the Omaha Nighthawks. Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson was the No. 1 overall pick, going to Jerry Glanville's Hartford Colonials.

Because of the NFL's lockout, undrafted rookies currently can't sign with NFL teams, so Herzlich and other players like him are without a team. If the lockout drags on through the summer and threatens the NFL season, the UFL presents an opportunity for them to play professional football this year.

Delaware QB Pat Devlin was targeted as the top overall selection in the UFL draft, but was required to sign a contract before the selection and chose not to do so, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. Devlin will be one of the top undrafted free agents that can sign with NFL teams once the lockout is lifted.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis is expected to announce this week whether it will grant the NFL a stay of a lower court's ruling lifting the lockout while the league appeals the lower court's decision. That appeal is expected to take six to eight weeks.

It is still unclear if Herzlich and other rookies will sign UFL contracts. Once a player signs a UFL contract, he is bound to his team for the entire season, so he will not be able to leave if the NFL's lockout ends. The 2011 UFL season begins in early August.

Johnson sounds as if he might give the UFL a try, based on his reaction posted on Twitter.

He wrote: "Hartford,Connecticut it is... excited & blessed for the opportunity, thanx & gig em !!"

After the Senior Bowl in late January, ESPN's Scouts Inc., rated Herzlich as a late fifth-round selection, but he was considered an early-round prospect following a stellar 2008 season. Then, he was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a form of cancer that attacks the bones, He returned to the field in 2010 after missing the entire 2009 season.

Nighthawks coach Joe Moglia said on Twitter that he hopes to convince Herzlich to play in the UFL this season.

"Mark Herzlich is a special person and we feel a special football player," he tweeted. "We would like to offer Mark the opportunity to showcase his talents.

"He fits really well into what Coach [Tom] Olivadotti plans to do on defense and we will do everything we can to get him to come to Omaha."

Glanville told the Hartford Courant that he selected Johnson first because he's not sure Josh McCown, who started for the team last season, will return.

"He couldn't give me an answer," Glanville told the newspaper. "We wish he would come back, but he couldn't tell us. You can't go to war with hopes and wishes and maybes, so we had to do something."

Fifty-two players overall were taken in the 10-round draft by the UFL's five teams. The teams picked both undrafted rookies and players with NFL experience who currently aren't under contract. The entire draft was held on Twitter.

Of the players drafted, 24 are rookies who weren't taken in the NFL draft last week, including Fresno State QB Ryan Colburn (by Sacramento) and Mississippi QB Jeremiah Masoli (by Omaha).

Among notable players with NFL experience picked were center Cecil Newton Jr., who was selected by Hartford. Newton is the brother of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft. Newton Jr., spent time on the Jaguars' practice squad in 2009.

Veteran defensive tackles Ryan Sims and Ian Scott were taken by Virginia, as was former Chicago Bears running back Adrian Peterson.

UFL commissioner Michael Huyghue said he hopes players will look at the uncertainty of the NFL labor picture and consider his league an option.

"They don't know the status of the NFL right now, and the labor situation might put them in a position where they have to sit out," he told NFL.com. "And sitting out is the worst thing possible for their development. What we can offer is playing time, similar coaching, a similar pace, and a springboard to the next level."

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