Gophers defensive backs Jordan Howden, Terell Smith go in 5th round of NFL Draft

Jordan Howden and Terell Smith had early struggles at Minnesota but developed into pros

Minnesota Gophers defensive back Jordan Howden (left) cheers on linebacker Braelen Oliver (right) after Oliver made a good stop against Nebraska in the second quarter of an NCAA football game Oct. 16, 2021, in Minneapolis.
Minnesota Gophers defensive back Jordan Howden (left) cheers on linebacker Braelen Oliver (right) after Oliver made a good stop against Nebraska in the second quarter of an NCAA football game Oct. 16, 2021, in Minneapolis.
John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press file photo

Safety Jordan Howden was the first Gopher to find a new home in the NFL on Saturday and cornerback Terell Smith was not far behind.

In the fifth round, the New Orleans Saints picked Howden with the 146th overall pick and the Chicago Bears took Smith with the 165th selection.

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With John Michael Schmitz going to the New York Giants with the 57th pick on Friday, Minnesota had three players taken in the 2023 draft, giving them a total of 14 across four consecutive drafts — a program most since 1988-91.

Howden has a great story as a former walk-on from San Diego who stuck out a rough start as a true freshman in 2018 to earn a scholarship, grow into a leader on Minnesota and an all-Big Ten-level performer.

Smith also had to overcome adversity. He was a starter as a true freshman, struggled with injuries and inconsistencies during the middle of his career, but came back strong as a senior last year.


Schmitz taken by Giants in 2nd round

Schmitz made history for the Gophers football team Friday. The coveted center was selected by the New York Giants in the second round, which became the highest Gophers lineman taken since Brian Williams was the 18th pick in the first round in 1989. He also went to the Giants. Schmitz’s pick was foreshadowed.

The Giants sent their offensive line coach Bobby Johnson to the Gophers' Pro Day in March, and he ran Schmitz and other lineman through at the Athletes Village. Schmitz was linked to the Giants in many mock drafts.

The 6-foot-3, 300-pound sixth-year senior from Flossmoor, Illinois, originally committed to P.J. Fleck at Western Michigan and came to Minnesota with Fleck in 2017. He developed into an all-Big Ten and All-America player and a finalist for the Rimington Award for the best player at the position in college football.

Schmitz was remarkably durable with the Gophers, playing in 57 total games, and received the highest grade in the nation among centers (92.4) in 2022, per Pro Football Focus. But he was snubbed for the Rimington, which went to Michigan’s Olusegun Oluwatimi.

The Gophers have now had four players taken in the opening two rounds of the past four drafts, a program first since 1942-45.


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