Travis Feeney had a succinct, exclamatory response when asked how it felt to be drafted Saturday by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Posed that question during a conference call with reporters, Feeney simply replied: “Freakin’ awesome.”
No matter that the former Washington Huskies outside linebacker had to wait until the draft’s final day to hear his name called. The Steelers eventually snagged him with the 220th overall pick late in the sixth round of the NFL draft, and that was all Feeney needed to craft a lifelong memory.
“(I was) just sitting at home, thinking nothing was going to come,” Feeney said. “My dad is from Pennsylvania, family lives out there, and I know they’re all excited out there. I’ll get to see my family while I am there, and they can watch me play. I’m ready to go.”
Another Husky, tailback Dwayne Washington, went to the Detroit Lions in the seventh round with the 236th overall selection. He will join Washington State offensive lineman Joe Dahl, a Spokane native who was selected by the Lions in the fifth round with the 151st overall pick.
Dahl is the first WSU offensive lineman drafted since Zack Williams in 2011, and is WSU’s highest-drafted offensive lineman since Scott Sanderson was picked in the third round in 1997.
Dahl, listed at 6-foot-4 and 304 pounds, played left tackle for the Cougars last season. He told reporters Saturday that he isn’t sure where the Lions will play him.
“I don’t really care where I got drafted or anything like that,” Dahl said. “I just kind of see it as the same situation, regardless of who’s there. You’ve got to come in and work your butt off and just come in with the right mindset to compete and try to earn whatever you can get.”
Feeney, listed at 6-4 and 226 pounds, developed into UW’s top NFL prospect after he moved to the Huskies’ hybrid “buck” linebacker position as a fifth-year senior in 2015. Given more opportunities to rush the passer, Feeney used his speed off the edge to record eight sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss.
He put forth an impressive effort at the NFL combine despite a sports hernia that eventually required surgery. Feeney ran a 4.5-second 40-yard dash at the combine and posted a vertical leap of 40 inches, and said later that he was nowhere near 100 percent when he tested. He sat out UW’s Pro Day following surgery.
Some analysts projected him as high as a second or third-round pick. Feeney told reporters in Pittsburgh that he didn’t know why he was drafted so late — multiple shoulder surgeries during his college career might have been a factor, or the simple fact that he doesn’t project as a prototypical linebacker — but he also didn’t seem to care.
“I can’t answer that question,” Feeney said. “I can only be the guy waiting and waiting on a team to call me. I’m glad it was the Steelers.”
Dwayne Washington had to wait even longer. He left UW with one season of eligibility remaining despite a lackluster statistical showing in 2015 — he rushed for only 282 yards, and his touches were limited by injury and the emergence of freshman Myles Gaskin — but performed well at UW’s Pro Day and offers a rare blend of speed (4.44 seconds in the 40-yard dash) and size (6-2, 226 pounds).
Some of his undrafted UW teammates wound up signing free-agent contracts with NFL teams immediately after the conclusion of the final round. Receiver Marvin Hall tweeted that he signed a deal with the Oakland Raiders, and tight end Joshua Perkins is headed to rookie camp with the Atlanta Falcons.