BYU wide receiver Dax Milne bows after a touchdown at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Milne was one of five Cougars taken in the 2021 NFL Draft. (Preston Crawley)

BYU Football ties program record with five players taken in NFL Draft

BYU Football had four players taken after Zach Wilson in the latter rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft to bring this year’s total to five, the most since 2002 and tied for the most through seven rounds in program history.

Offensive lineman Brady Christensen was taken on April 30 in the third round by the Carolina Panthers, becoming the first offensive lineman drafted from BYU since Scott Young in 2005, and the highest drafted since John Tait in 1999.

The final three Cougars were taken in the seventh round on May 1, with defensive tackle Khryis Tonga going to the Chicago Bears, cornerback Chris Wilcox going to the Tampa Bay Bucaneers and wide receiver Dax Milne to the Washington Footaball team with the penultimate pick in the draft.

Wilcox’s selection was particularly special, as the 6-foot-2 defensive stopper became the first cornerback to be drafted from BYU since Derwin Gray in 1993. Milne’s journey is unique as well, as the receiver went from a walk-on as a freshman to an NFL draft pick in less than three years.

This year’s showing matches the BYU draft classes in 2002 and 1995 as the most players taken in the modern seven-round NFL Draft. There were at least five players from BYU taken four times prior to that, but in drafts with more than seven rounds.

Chris Wilcox runs drills at BYU Pro Day in the Indoor Practice Facility on March 26. Wilcox was the first cornerback from BYU to be drafted since Derwin Gray in 1993. (Preston Crawley)

The NFL signings didn’t stop for the Cougars after the draft, however, as an additional seven BYU players signed undrafted free agent contracts with teams.

Tight end Matt Bushman signed with the Las Vegas Raiders, offensive lineman Chandon Herring with the Tennessee Titans, linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi with the Indianapolis Colts, safety Zayne Anderson with the Kansas City Chiefs, defensive back Troy Warner with the Los Angeles Rams, defensive tackle Zac Dawe with the Atlanta Falcons and offensive lineman Tristen Hoge with the New York Jets.

The latter reunites Wilson with one of his key protectors on the offensive line at BYU in Hoge. Three of the five starters on the 2020 BYU offensive line are now on NFL rosters with Christensen, Herring and Hoge signing pro contracts.

BYU’s best draft showing in nearly 20 years comes after one of its best seasons in recent memory, with an 11-1 record and top-10 ranking to go along with Heisman Trophy and College Football Playoff hype.

The Cougars had six players invited to the NFL Combine, but no physical event took place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. BYU hosted its most extensive and publicized Pro Day yet instead, with representatives from 31 of the 32 NFL teams in attendance at the Indoor Practice Facility in Provo.

Every player that was either drafted or signed a contract showed out in front of scouts at the Pro Day, with Wilson putting on a passing display and Wilcox and Christensen posting eye-popping numbers in the 40-yard dash and broad jump, respectively. It also gave players a chance to talk with team executives, and a few of those conversations were mentioned during the draft as reasons for selecting certain players.

“I love each of these guys and look forward to following their careers in the NFL,” BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said after the draft.

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