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April 27, 2012

Hayward goes to the Packers in Round 2

Vanderbilt All-American Casey Hayward was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the second round of the NFL Draft on Friday night. The talented cornerback was taken with the 62nd overall pick, becoming the highest Commodore draft pick since the Chicago Bears selected Chris Williams at 14th overall in the 2008 NFL Draft.

Hayward is the third Commodore corner to be selected in the last four NFL Drafts. Former All-American standout D.J. Moore was selected in the fourth round of the 2009 Draft by the Chicago Bears. Former All-SEC corner Myron Lewis was selected in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

"I couldn't be happier for Casey. He's a tremendous young man and a great football player who put together a remarkable season and career for our program," Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin said in a release on Friday night. "Casey has great football instincts and makes a ton of big plays. He performed at a very high level at the highest level of college football. He also was a pleasure to coach, a guy that would do whatever was needed to help the Commodores win."

A standout from Perry High inside Houston County, Ga., Hayward was a versatile prospect that played both ways and also excelled on the basketball court. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound athlete led the Panthers to the quarterfinals of the Class 3A state playoffs in 2007 and was named Houston County Player of the Year and Region 4-3A Offensive Player of the Year while playing quarterback and defensive back.

A bit of a "hidden gem", Vanderbilt began recruiting Hayward towards the end of his junior year and eventually offered the all-state standout on October 22 of his senior year.

At the time, Hayward had just one scholarship offer from Middle Tennessee State and he would go on to receive offers from other schools such as Southern Miss and Troy. He committed to Vanderbilt in late January prior to the 2008 Signing Day.

Rivals.com would upgrade Hayward from a two-star to a three-star (impact) prospect during the final ratings evaluation period in 2008.

Hayward became an immediate factor on the roster as a true freshman, playing primarily special teams and reserve corner during Vanderbilt's run to the 2008 Music City Bowl.

Following the graduation of Moore, Hayward stepped into the starting lineup in 2009 and began a stellar three-year run that saw the Georgia native earn All-SEC honors on two occasions and tie the Commodore record for interceptions with 15 picks. Hayward set a new school record for passes defended with 46.

As a senior, Hayward was fourth nationally in interceptions with seven picks. A defensive co-captain, his play helped Vanderbilt rank ninth in pass efficiency defense. The defensive secondary improvement played a big role in the Commodores reaching the Liberty Bowl under a brand new coaching staff.

Hayward's 50-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to tie the game against U-Conn arguably turned the tables on the season, as the Commodores went on to defeat the Huskies and ensure a 3-0 start to the season. His play against Arkansas's talented receiving corps set the stage for a potential Top 10 upset for Vanderbilt.

Hayward became the first Commodore since Moore to be named an All-American following the season, earning second team honors by the Walter Camp Foundation as well as by Rivals.com and Yahoo! Sports.

Green Bay traded its third and fifth round pick with New England in order to move up to the 62nd pick and take Hayward. He's the first Commodore pick by Green Bay since the franchise selected Hunter Hillenmeyer in the fifth round of the 2003 Draft.

He joins a Packers franchise that is just two years removed from winning a Super Bowl and features one of the game's most explosive offenses and one of the league's most opportunistic defenses.

The Packers have ranked fourth or better in terms of team interceptions in the NFL during each of the last four seasons. Twice the Packers have been first in picking off opposing passers, including last season.

Hayward will now play in the same division as the Chicago Bears and four former Vanderbilt standouts, including former teammate, D.J. Moore.

Ten Commodores have been selected in the NFL Draft since 2005.

Standout defensive end Tim Fugger and safety Sean Richardson are among the other Commodore prospects that are expected to join Hayward in this year's NFL draft class.

The second and third rounds conclude on Friday. Rounds 4-7 will take place on Saturday from New York City.

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