GVSU's Judon selected by the Baltimore Ravens in 2016 NFL Draft
Former Laker is second-highest draft pick in GVSU history
GVL / Kevin Sielaff - Matt Judon (9) joins his teammates on the field at the start of the match. The Lakers fall to the Rams of Shepherd University with a final score of 34-32 Dec. 12 in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
Matt Judon was shooting a round of pool at the Baltimore Ravens' facility earlier this year when Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome walked by.
Newsome told Judon he'd beat him in pool. Judon told Newsome to bring it on. Now, the two will have a chance.
GVL / Kevin Sielaff - Matt Judon (9) patrols the sideline. Grand Valley defeats Ferris with a final score of 38-34 at Top Taggart Field Nov. 28 in Big Rapids, MI.
It was Newsome who called Judon on April 30, as he informed the former Grand Valley State standout that he had been drafted by the Baltimore Ravens. Judon was selected as the seventh pick in the fifth round, and the 146th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
"(Newsome) called me and he was like, 'You remember I told you I'd beat you in pool?' and we were talking about that," Judon said. "Then he asked me, because my family was being quiet, if anybody was around or if I was alone, then he told me to tell them that they can cheer because I'm officially a Baltimore Raven."
Judon was at home in West Bloomfield, Michigan throughout the draft. His phone rang when the draft went to commercial, though the television showed that the San Fransisco 49ers had just submitted their pick. It wasn't the 49ers calling, but rather the Ravens, letting GVSU's career sack leader know they wanted him to come play on Sundays.
"It's a whole rush of feelings, you get a rush of feeling all at once," Judon said. "It was really exciting."
Baltimore's social media profiles listed Judon as an outside linebacker, and the draft process had him flipping between defensive end and linebacker depending on the team he was connected with. It's still unknown at which position Judon will suit up in the NFL, despite solely playing defensive end during his GVSU career.
"It's pretty cool to sit there and watch his name pop up," said GVSU head coach Matt Mitchell. "I think based on everything that had happened throughout the course of his career we knew it was going to happen. It was just a matter of who and when."
Prior to the draft, Judon was slated between a third and a fifth round pick by various draft sources. Judon sat through the first two days without receiving the phone call, and waited in tension as the fourth round passed him by.
"It did really seem like it was going by slow," he said. "Before I got drafted it felt like there was almost 1,000 people picked, instead of 145."
Judon narrowly missed out on being the highest draft pick in GVSU history. In 2008, the Kansas City Chiefs selected cornerback Brandon Carr with the 140th pick in the fifth round, while Judon was the 146th pick. Carr now plays for the Dallas Cowboys.
En route to becoming a legend at GVSU and securing the 2016 Gene Upshaw Award for top defensive lineman in Division II, Judon endured a pair of injuries and a freshman year redshirt at GVSU. By the time his Lakers career had wrapped up, Judon had been on the roster for six seasons, culminating with his record-breaking 20-sack outburst in the 2015 season.
According to Mitchell, the Ravens had regional scout Milt Hendrickson tracking Judon since last summer. Mitchell and Hendrickson had conversations regarding Judon, and the Ravens were among the handful of teams who brought Judon to their facilities for a private workout leading up to the draft. The Ravens had five fourth-round picks, and passed up on Judon with each one, but finally snapped him up with their lone selection in the fifth round.
Mitchell noted that GVSU's 2016 defensive line, though losing Judon, is returning a wealth of talent, including De'Ondre Hogan, Alton Voss, Keane Belcher and Mark Rosenquist. The Lakers will miss Judon's talent, but will miss Judon's leadership even more, Mitchell said.
Judon's next order of business is to report and participate in Baltimore's rookie camp in May. The Ravens selected 11 players in the draft, including three defensive ends and a defensive tackle.
"I definitely want more," Judon said. "It was a time to be happy or it was a time to celebrate but even after you win a game or a Super Bowl or a championship you gotta get back and try to do it again. So right now I'm at one of the lowest levels of the NFL. I'm a rookie and I've got to prove myself."
The Ravens will open the 2016 season with a home game against the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 11. Judon will make his closest appearance to Michigan with a Week 2 matchup in Cleveland against the Browns.