By Will Vandervort
The NFL Draft is known for its rags to riches stories. Heck, former Clemson linebacker Kavell Conner is one of them. His pick surprised everyone when the Indianapolis Colts selected him in the seventh round (240th overall) of the 2010 Draft.
Three years later, he continues to surprise everyone. Connor has since made the Colts look brilliant as he has recorded 215 tackles in his first three years in the league, leading the NFL in that category in 2011.
Will former Clemson safety Jonathan Meeks be making the Buffalo Bills look as smart in the next couple of years? The Bills are hoping so after they chose him in the fifth round (143rd overall) on Saturday.
“You are going to get the best from everybody,” Meeks said in a transcript on the team’s Official Web site. “I can’t wait to go out there, compete, win the job and be the safety for the Bills.”
It’s going to be a challenge to become a starter after the Bills put a franchise tag on Pro Bowl safety Jarius Byrd and drafted Nevada’s Duke Williams in the fourth round earlier in the day. But, after being shunned by those who run the NFL Combine, Meeks says all those things just motivate him more.
“There definitely was and still is (a chip on my shoulder),” he said. “They say the draft is definitely not the end; it is the beginning and I haven’t been able to express that the chip is still on my shoulder.
“Things happen for a reason so that is just going to make me hungrier as a player and as a person as well.”
Meeks says he is excited to be in Buffalo and is looking forward to teaming up with Bills running back C.J. Spiller. The two played together at Clemson in 2009 and helped guided the Tigers to an ACC Atlantic Division Championship.
He is also excited about working alongside Byrd and hopes he can learn from the veteran leader of the secondary.
“He’s a great player,” Meeks said. “I knew that it was his contract year and he will be back with the Bills again, you just can’t let players like that leave. He is a great player to learn from.”
Meeks first caught the Bills’ eye at the Raycom All-Star game in Montgomery, AL. That’s when he met Buffalo’s general manager, Buddy Nix, who was there watching practice.
“I had a pretty solid week out at the All-Star game and they expressed some interest in me,” Meeks said. “Then I took my visit up there and it was a very good visit.
“I had the chance to meet the coaches and Nix again and it was a very solid visit. They expressed a lot of interest in me and I in them as well, knowing that they are a great program to be a part of and a great organization. It was mutual respect of each other and they had a lot of interest in me.”
On his visit with Buffalo, Meeks met with Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine, as they talked about scheme and how he might fit into what they are already doing with the secondary.
“I feel like it will work well for me. We had a chance to go over some plays,” Meeks said. “I just fell in love with the defense within one day and Coach as well. The things they were showing me that I would be able to do, I know as a player that I could perform really well for the Bills and I want to do that.
“This is the opportunity to go out there and play. That is the biggest thing for me right now. Just for me to be able to use my athleticism as a safety. I’m big, fast and strong. I can hit and that defense will allow me to do that.”