Falcons pick up Golden Lions’ Thurmond

Brandon Thurmond’s NFL dreams didn’t end when the NFL Draft did on Saturday.

Just moments after the final pick was made, the former Arkansas-Pine Bluff defensive end landed a deal with an NFL team in his home state.

Thurmond, the SWAC Defensive Player of the Year from Augusta, Ga., signed with the NFC runner-up Atlanta Falcons as a free agent not 5 minutes after the draft concluded, Augusta station WRDW-TV reported. UAPB coach Monte Coleman confirmed the acquisition.

“That’s a great deal for him,” Coleman said Monday. “That’s one of the conversations I had with (Thurmond and fellow UAPB seniors Jarvis Webb and Bill Ross). They had a chance to be drafted, but the reality was free agency. For him to sign with Atlanta, in his home state, we’re definitely excited for him.”

The deal capped off an offseason for Thurmond marked by numerous awards and a couple of snubs.

Thurmond played with UAPB teammate and offensive tackle Terron Armstead in the East-West Shrine Game in January, but did not receive an invite to the NFL Combine, where Armstead ran an offensive lineman-record 4.71-second 40-yard dash.

The omission from the Combine was surprising for the 6-foot-2, 260-pounder from Augusta who was named Boxtorow and Mel Blount Defensive Player of the Year for all of black college football, as well as Sports Network FCS All-American. He led the NCAA across all divisions with 17 sacks in 2012.

Coleman said it was very surprising for Thurmond not to receive a Combine invite.

“Not to take anything from the Division I or bowl-caliber (FBS) players, it’s almost like an act of Congress, like Armstead did, for a small-school player to go to the Combine,” Coleman said.

Nonetheless, Thurmond is still the second UAPB player to land on an NFL team this year, following Armstead’s third-round selection by New Orleans on Friday.

According to ProFootballTalk.com, the Falcons’ optional minicamp started last Monday. Their offseason will close with mandatory minicamp June 18-20.

As for Armstead and the Saints, their optional minicamp began April 13 and will close June 14, with mandatory minicamp June 4-6, according to the website.