With just four picks remaining in the draft, the first Eastern Michigan Eagle prospect heard his name called Saturday evening.
After leading his program to its first bowl game since 1987, defensive end Pat O’Connor will now bring his pass rushing talents to the Detroit Lions of the National Football League.
O’Connor became the third MAC selection to join the Lions after Northern Illinois wide receiver Kenny Golladay and Ohio linebacker Blair Brown were previously selected. Detroit sits less than 40 miles from Ypsilanti, the town in which Eastern Michigan University resides.
O’Connor, a two-time All-MAC selection, played in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in January. He earned the credentials to the game by recording 8.5 sacks and five forced fumbles in his final season in Ypsilanti. O’Connor is the program’s all-time leader in sacks, forced fumbles, and career games.
O’Connor’s 2014 and 2016 seasons were noteworthy, but a preseason shoulder injury hampered his entire 2015 season. O’Connor had 20 career sacks despite limited playing time and was a tw-time first all-MAC team selection at defensive end for the Eagles.
The 6-foot-4-inch, 270-pound defensive end will join a talented Lions squad that reached the playoffs in 2016. The defensive front four is currently armed with 2015 Pro Bowler Ezekiel Ansah as well as former Ravens star Haloti Ngata.
As one of the draft’s final selections, O’Connor enters the professional ranks with a lot to prove. Detroit’s pass rush definitely needed an upgrade after ranking second-to-last in the NFL with only 26 sacks in 2016. O’Connor was the second defensive end (Jeremiah Ledbetter, Arkansas, sixth round) to be summoned to Detroit on Saturday.