Danny Batten joined the list of South Dakota State University draftees when he received a phone call he awaited Saturday afternoon.
It was Chan Gailey, head coach of the Buffalo Bills. Gailey told Batten Buffalo was selecting him with their sixth-round pick, the 192nd selection of the NFL Draft.
It is the first phone call of that nature to an SDSU football player since Steve Heiden was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the third round in 1999.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Batten, who went through individual workouts for six teams that expressed interest in the former Jacks defensive end. “It’s a great feeling, and I’ll never forget that my entire life.”
Batten finished his career at SDSU highly decorated. This past season, he was voted Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the Missouri Valley Football Conference and finished third in the voting for the Buck Buchanan Award, which is given to the Football Championship Subdivision’s top defensive player. He led the Jacks in sacks (nine) and tackles for loss (17) and played a key role in SDSU’s first postseason appearance in 30 years.
The list of people to thank is extensive.
“My dad, coaches all along the way from Coach Brown to Coach Stig to Coach Jarvis … My family, my loved ones, everyone,” said Batten, now the 28th player in SDSU history to be drafted to the NFL. “It’s been an unbelievable support system, and I owe them all of it. They played a huge role in it.”
Batten’s next step is Bills mini-camp, where he will take the field as a professional for the first time, with everything to prove.
“That’s the next step; that’s just kind of an overview of the team. I get the playbooks and everything,” said Batten. “It’s unbelievable. I can’t wait; I can’t wait to go to work.”
Batten embarks on an NFL career as a draftee, but former teammates have also signed as free agents and have been invited to mini-camp. Offensive lineman Casey Knips and Casey Bender signed deals with the Arizona Cardinals and the Cleveland Browns, respectively. Former Jacks linebacker Chris Johnson, who finished fourth on the team in tackles last season, received a mini-camp invitation with the Chicago Bears, and SDSU’s leading wide receiver Glen Fox has a tryout for the Green Bay Packers.
Despite the loss of these key players, Batten believes his departure and others will not hurt the Jacks next season.
“They’re gonna be great; tProxy-Connection: keep-aliveCache-Control: max-age=0
y’ll definitely repeat,” said Batten of the team’s chances to duplicate last season’s success. “We laid the foundation last year, now it’s up to them. They know how and expect to win. … I expect to see some excellent things from them next year.”
As for Batten’s expectations of life as a professional athlete and as a Buffalo Bill, the determination is clear.
“I expect it to be extremely intense, extremely fast and extremely hard-hitting,” said Batten. “I’m expecting to go out there and play as hard as I ever have, and hopefully get myself on the 53-man roster, which is the ultimate goal.”