Greg Mattison couldn't believe it.
Like many in the Michigan football family, come draft weekend Mattison couldn't believe how long star defensive tackle Maurice Hurst was on the board, particularly after seeing some of the players who were selected ahead of him on the first two days of the three-day event.
"Sitting there watching, having recruited a bunch of those guys, and played against them, I'm sitting there going, are you kidding me, this guy is going ahead? But then, I knew exactly what it was when it was happening," the
Michigan defensive line coach said. "I was just thankful that you guys [the Raiders] took him, and now, you're the ones that are going to look like geniuses in the deal."
Finally, at long last, on the third day of the draft, with the 140th overall pick, the Oakland Raiders selected Hurst, ending a wait that at times seemed never ending for the powerful defensive tackle who had first-round aspirations up through the NFL Scouting Combine.
And while Hurst certainly had hoped to go higher in the draft, Mattison believes that the Silver and Black hit the jackpot by grabbing Hurst in the fifth round.
"I thought it was the greatest steal in the history of pro football," Mattison explained. "I saw the whole thing, I said, 'holy… somebody is going to get an unbelievable steal here,' and I understand. I understand the whole deal, but the kid has the opportunity to be tremendous, and he's got so many things going for him. I recruited him, and I had him for all five years, and one, he's going to bring unbelievable character into your locker room. He's a phenomenal kid."
After an absolutely dominant career in Ann Arbor where his stats routinely improved year after year, medical concerns forced the big man down on numerous draft boards, but now that Hurst has found a new football home, his former defensive line coach thinks that falling during draft weekend will motivate him going forward.
And with the pedigree and productivity that Hurst boasts, the Raiders are getting excellent value.
"He plays pad level," Mattison said. "His pad level is so good, and his get off on the snap will be like nobody you have on your front. He at times looked like he was offsides, and a lot of guys that do that stand up when they're doing that, [but] his pad level is excellent with it."
With 32 sacks during his career as a Wolverine, Hurst will likely not only prove to be a tremendous value for the Silver and Black, but he will also fill a need on the interior of the defensive line – an area that Head Coach Jon Gruden has discussed regularly as one that needed some shoring up this offseason.
While Hurst won't hit the field Week 1 as a finished product – but hey, no rookie will – Mattison thinks that No. 73 will have a leg up on other players in his situation considering he stayed and played a full, four years collegiately.
"I think that you're going to find that him staying that extra year will give him that mental, as well as physical, maturity, that is necessary to play in that league," Mattison said. "And I told him when we were having our discussions about it, you talk about 11 games, or 12 games in college, that's not even half the season when you have a great team in the NFL. You're just starting, so you better be mentally and physically tough to play in the league, and I think you need another year to get that done, and he did."
While Hurst was unquestionably a monster between the hash marks, the former Wolverine also took care of business off the field, earning Academic All-Big Ten honors four times, and according to Mattison, that combination of athleticism and intelligence will help the rookie immensely during his first NFL season.
"When you're an intelligent young man, intelligence usually comes with pride, or vice versa," he said.
"There's going to be a time with Coach Gruden and the staff and everybody, when you're going to see Mo rise up and say here's why I should have been first round. Here is why, and not say it, but show it, then just walk away."
If that moment does indeed come, and Hurst shows off that first-round pedigree, then what has been posited about will go from conjecture to fact; the Raiders really did pull off one heck of a draft day steal.