Safety Darnell Savage was selected No. 21 overall in the NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers on Thursday, the second straight year a Maryland football player was selected in the first round.
“To hear my name called on draft night is the realization of a lifelong dream,” Savage said in a release. “I’m ecstatic to be a Green Bay Packer. I want to thank my parents, family, coaches and brothers inside the Maryland locker room that helped me reach this point. We’re going to enjoy this moment tonight and then I can’t wait to get to Green Bay to start my NFL journey.”
Savage was a second team All-Big Ten selection as a senior, intercepting four passes and totalling 52 tackles. But his stock soared after his NFL Combine performance, in which he ran a 4.36 40-yard dash — eighth-fastest overall and the second-best time for a safety. He placed third at his position in the vertical jump, reaching 39.5 inches.
At Maryland’s Pro Day on March 27, Savage opted to participate in only field drills, content with his Combine performances. He said he met with “pretty much all” 32 NFL teams and would be busy with further visits in the final month before the draft.
For the Terps, Savage started 37 consecutive games, beginning with his freshman year’s season finale. He became an integral part of the secondary, finishing in the top-five each of the last three years in total tackles and reeling in eight interceptions during his time in College Park.
The Newark, Delaware, native began the 2018 campaign fast. He tallied six tackles — two for a loss — and added a pass breakup, helping Maryland build a commanding early lead over then-No. 23 Texas before holding off the Longhorns’ late comeback bid.
Savage added two more tackles for loss as part of seven total in Maryland’s dismal week three loss to Temple. His pick-six in the second quarter — along with defensive lineman Jesse Aniebonam’s blocked punt return for a score — were the only points the Terps would manage.
He again came through big time in Maryland’s penultimate regular-season game, tallying nine total tackles and a pass breakup as the Terps nearly upset then-No.9 Ohio State. He tipped quarterback Dwayne Haskins’ pass — who was taken by the Washington Redskins at No. 15 — leading to cornerback RaVon Davis’ pick-6.
Last year, wide receiver DJ Moore was selected No. 24 overall by the Carolina Panthers, becoming the first Terp to go in the first round since fellow receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey in 2009.
The Packers traded up to select Savage, swapping No. 30 and two fourth-round picks for the Seattle Seahawks’ No. 21 slot. Green Bay focused on boosting its defense in the first round Thursday, taking Michigan edge rusher Rashan Gary at No. 12 before choosing Savage, who was the first defensive back off the board.
Savage was a three-star recruit out of Caravel Academy in Bear, Delaware, per 247Sports. He was ranked the 91st overall cornerback in his class. Now, he’s going to the NFL as a first-round selection.
“I’ve never doubted myself, and the people around me never doubted me,” Savage said March 27. “I’ve been proving people wrong my whole life.”