Two hours before the NFL draft officially started, Omaha South graduate Noah Fant walked the predraft red carpet in a classic gray suit and burgundy bow tie. Iowa’s all-time leader in receiving touchdowns for a tight end was all smiles as he posed for pictures.
On Thursday night, Fant became the first Nebraskan selected in the first round of the NFL draft in more than three decades.
The Denver Broncos drafted Fant, who starred as an Iowa tight end, with the 20th overall pick Thursday night.
In an interview with a Denver TV station on the red carpet before being selected, Fant was asked about playing in Denver.
“Playing for Denver would be amazing,” Fant said. “It would be a great place for me to go.”
It’s the first time a Nebraska high school graduate went in the first round since Rushville’s Kelly Stouffer (No. 6 overall, St. Louis Cardinals) and Lincoln Northeast’s Danny Noonan (No. 12, Dallas Cowboys) were selected in 1987. There have been at least 12 Nebraskans taken in the first round all time. Sterling’s Dean Steinkuhler remains the highest drafted prospect of that group —he went No. 2 overall to the Houston Oilers in 1984.
Fant and his family were in Nashville, Tennessee, to attend the NFL draft and the festivities that surround it. He walked on stage after his selection was announced and met Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Once an All-Nebraska selection for Omaha South, Fant went on to have a decorated career at Iowa. He caught 78 passes for 1,083 yards and 19 touchdowns, breaking a school record for career touchdowns by a tight end. He was a first-team All-Big Ten selection last season on the strength of 39 receptions for 519 yards and seven touchdowns.
Fant left Iowa with one year of eligibility to pursue his NFL career, and entering the draft he was considered one of the top players available. ESPN had Fant ranked second at his position and 12th overall.
ESPN’s predraft analysis of Fant said he’s “essentially a bulked-up slot receiver with the size, speed and athleticism to create mismatches in the passing game. He’s fast enough to stretch the field and has the quickness to threaten after the catch. While Fant is a natural hands catcher with above-average body control, his focus is a bit inconsistent.”
Fant was the second tight end taken in the draft, following Iowa teammate T.J. Hockenson, who went eighth overall to the Detroit Lions.
The Denver Broncos are looking for an upgrade at tight end and feel they got it with Fant. The Broncos’ No. 1 tight end in 2018 was Jeff Heuerman, who caught 31 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns.
Fant is the first tight end the Broncos have taken in the first round since 1972, when they selected Riley Odoms (Houston) with the fifth overall pick.
Fant told reporters after he was picked that he was “super hyped” to work with new Denver quarterback Joe Flacco.