BOULDER – David Bakhtiari took a chance with his early departure from school, Nick Kasa arrived at what would be his best position late in his career.
On Saturday, they shared the same reward: both University of Colorado standouts were offered the chance to further their football careers in the NFL.
Bakhtiari, a 6-6, 299-pound offensive lineman, was drafted in Saturday’s fourth round by the Green Bay Packers. Kasa, a 6-6, 269-pound tight end, was selected two rounds later by the Oakland Raiders.
No other CU student-athletes were selected in Rounds 3-7 Saturday, but defensive tackle Will Pericak signed a free agent contract with the Baltimore Ravens, linebacker Doug Rippy signed with the Denver Broncos, and safety Ray Polk signed with the Seattle Seahawks.
Bakhtiari, who played both tackle positions at CU before electing to forgo his senior season, was the 12th player taken in the fourth round and the 109th overall draftee. Kasa, who moved to tight end from defense eight games into the 2011 season, was the fourth player drafted in the sixth round and the 172nd overall selection.
CU’s 2012 roster featured eight seniors, five of whom were either drafted or signed as free agents. Dating to 1938, at least one CU player has been selected in 65 of 76 NFL drafts, with at least two Buffs selected 59 times.
“I’m so pumped . . . it’s a surprise, but sometimes the best things come in surprises,” said Bakhtiari, who waited on the draft to unfold in Palm Springs, Calif., with his family and a few close friends.
Bakhtiari’s surprise stemmed from the Packers not being among the five teams that he and his agent believed had the most interest in him. He said he had an interview with Green Bay at the NFL Combine, but the tradition-rich organization didn’t follow up by working him out.
Also, Bakhtiari, a second-team All-Pac-12 Conference honoree in each of the past two seasons, believed he would be taken late in the second round or early in the third. “But falling to the fourth round, really, I couldn’t be happier getting with this organization,” he said.
“I grew up knowing the Packers – Lombardi, the ‘Lambeau Leap’ and just everything about them. I’m really a Niners fan, and now we get to play them in week one. It couldn’t be any better.”
Several draft analysts project Bakhtiari eventually will move inside at some point during his pro career. If it happens in Green Bay, that’s fine with him – but that discussion hasn’t taken place yet.
“We haven’t talked about any of that yet . . . all five (O-line) positions are up for debate,” he said, adding that neither has he briefed himself on the Packers’ offensive line personnel. “I think I’ve got plenty of time to get to know them.”
If the call from the Pack stunned Bakhtiari, the Raiders reaching out to Kasa might have been a little more expected. “I knew I was on their watch list,” said Kasa, who was at his family’s home in Thornton when the call came. “I had met their staff at the Senior Bowl and just loved them.”
Kasa’s development at his relatively new position proved to be one of the brighter spots in CU’s 2012 season. Despite it being his first full-time season at tight end, he was an honorable mention All-Pac-12 selection after leading the Buffs in yards per catch (15.6). His 25 passes for 391 yards (three touchdowns) was fourth on the team and third in total yards.
Kasa’s size and speed opened eyes in the Pac-12 and apparently did so among the Raiders’ scouts. In addition, said Kasa, “I think they saw my work ethic and my athleticism. They know I’m a more complete tight end than most people thought; they saw my progress from the (2012) season to the Senior Bowl and saw I was making strides in the pass game and the run game.
“But mostly, I think they saw that I’m excited to play football. This is all so awesome, but I’m glad it’s over and I can concentrate on playing football again.”
Although he’ll be concentrating on making the Raiders roster, Kasa has enough California connections to stay in touch – when time permits. A brother (Sean) is attending California Institute of The Arts in Valencia, and a cousin lives in San Francisco.
Kasa has played all of his football in Colorado – he attended Legacy High School – and during that time it was hard to ignore the Broncos. But he never went so far as becoming a “Raider Hater.”
“No, that wasn’t the case,” he said. “I actually grew up more of an Eagles fan because I’ve got cousins in Pennsylvania . . . I’ve been all over the place (as a fan).”
Pericak (6-4, 300) said the Ravens flew him to Baltimore in March and were “upfront and honest with me . . . they’re really on top of their game; they know what they’re doing.”
Pericak said a meeting with the coaching staff gave him the impression “that they wanted me there. They said they would have drafted me if things had worked out, but this is just as good.”
Pericak will be reunited in Baltimore with former CU corner Jimmy Smith, who was a first-round draftee of the Ravens two years ago.
Rippy (6-2, 240) said he was excited to be returning to Colorado from his native Ohio. “It’s crazy,” he said. “I talked to some other teams throughout the process . . . I think they know what I can do, and this is a good opportunity for me.”
Rippy’s CU career was hampered by knee injuries, which he believes kept him from being drafted. “I just need to get back out there and show what I’m capable of doing,” he said.
Linebacker Jon Major (6-2, 235) has been invited to the Chicago Bears' minicamp on a trial basis. If Major shows well, he could be offered a free agent contract.