The hope is that there will be better days ahead for Eric Ebron in the NFL, but he’ll likely have a difficult time beating Thursday. Hours after he proposed to his girlfriend atop the Empire State Building in New York City, Ebron, the former North Carolina tight end, became a top-10 pick in the NFL draft.
The Detroit Lions selected him with the 10th pick in the first round. Ebron, who set several UNC receiving records for a tight end was the second player selected from an ACC school – following Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins, who went fourth to the Buffalo Bills – and he continued UNC’s streak of first-round picks.
Lions general manager Martin Mayhew insisted the team was prepared to pick a player at any position other than quarterback with the team’s first pick, and he proved it by taking someone who may not start this season.
“He’s a matchup nightmare” Mayhew said after making the selection.
“Tremendous physical talent,” Detroit coach Jim Caldwell said. “He’s a guy that can run for his size.”
A UNC player has now been selected in the first round in each of the past four NFL drafts.
In addition to Ebron, offensive guard Jonathan Cooper (2013), defensive tackle Sylvester Williams (2013), defensive end Quinton Coples (2012) and defensive end Robert Quinn (2011) are recent UNC players who were selected in the first round.
Ebron is the eighth UNC player to become a top-10 NFL draft pick, and the 23rd player in school history to be selected in the first round.
Most draft projections had him going around the middle of the first round, but the Lions apparently couldn’t pass up the chance to draft Ebron, enamored scouts with his blend of size and skill.
“Eric is the prototype tight end that the NFL is looking for these days,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said in a statement. “He can run all the routes. He can catch the ball, make people miss and has the speed to run away from defenders. The Lions are getting a special player, and I think his best football is ahead of him.”
As for the proposal, Ebron’s longtime girlfriend – UNC women’s basketball player Brittany Rountree – said yes. Ebron posted pictures of his proposal, including a shot of him getting on one knee, on his Instagram account.
Hours later, his dream of hearing his name called in the NFL draft became a reality.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.