Kenny Vaccaro at 2013 NFL Draft to fulfill dreams

Tim Heitman-US PRESSWIRE

The Brownwood product exceeded expectations at Texas in a major way.

When the 2013 NFL Draft starts on Thursday, former Texas Longhorns safety Kenny Vaccaro will be among 23 prospects invited to New York to attend the draft in person.

Expected to come off the board in the middle of the first round, Vaccaro will likely have one of the longer waits among those in attendance -- consider that if he goes 15th and each team takes their allotted 10 minutes, Vaccaro will have to wait two and a half hours to hear his name called.

But the hard-hitting safety should be able to rest easy knowing that he won't experience a free fall like those taken by Aaron Rodgers and Brady Quinn when they were invited to past drafts and had to wait for hours.

It's a stressful process for all involved, especially those sitting in the Green Room who have their disappointment captured for the entire world to see if they get bypassed by teams thought to have them high on their board.

But Vaccaro's unquestionably in better shape than the Honey Badger, Tyrann Mathieu, who is hosting a draft party on Thursday in the delusional hopes of going in the first round. Yeah, that probably won't go well for him, but at least we know what he's smoking.

The good news for Vaccaro is that he won't fall past Cincinnati at no. 21, as the Bengals have a strong need for a safety and sent defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer to Austin to work out Vaccaro during the Texas Pro Day. There's also a solid chance he could come off the board if he's still there for Chicago, another team that needs a safety and brought him in for a private work out.

In the context of the expectations for Vaccaro when he arrived in Austin, his journey from the Big Country of West Texas to New York for the NFL Draft, a journey that went down without his late father, is truly remarkable.

Of the 37 players ranked above him in the final LSR for the 2009 class in Texas, the only prospect with a chance to be drafted higher than Vaccaro is Craig Loston, who will be a member of the 2014 draft class and is currently rated as the top safety by WalterFootball.com.

Of the 17 safeties ranked ahead of Vaccaro that year, none of them stand out as college stars with the exception of Loston.

In a Texas class that was highly considered but turned out to be an absolute bust with only a few exceptions, most of whom will be selected in this draft, Vaccaro and Marquise Goodwin were the only overachievers.

The invite to the Big Apple will also stop a streak of Texas players being shut out of the first round. Earl Thomas was the last in 2010 and the 'Horns hadn't nabbed an invite since 2009, when both Brian Orakpo and Colt McCoy attended the festivities at Radio City Music Hall, though McCoy didn't come off the board until the third round, when head coach Mack Brown had the chance to announce his selection.

It's an invitation that not only bodes well for Vaccaro in terms of his draft selection and rookie contract, because the history of Texas players invited to the event is a positive one -- of the nine players invited, each have started at some point in their careers and five went on to earn Pro Bowl bids.

Kenny Vaccaro was never expected to be in position, but he took advantage of his overlooked natural ability, left it all on the field every time he took for the Longhorns, and is now hours away from seeing his dreams fulfilled and able to see his family taken care of financially.

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