Former South Carolina defensive end Clifton Geathers was drafted Saturday by the Cleveland Browns in the sixth round of the NFL Draft.
Geathers was chosen 17th in round six, or 186th overall. He is the fourth member of his Georgetown family to be drafted, including the third from his immediate family.
His father, Robert Sr, was a third-round pick of Buffalo in 1981 but never played a down in the NFL because of injury. Robert Jr., his brother, is a starting defensive end for the Cincinnati Bengals. His uncle, Jumpy Geathers, had a 13-year NFL career.
Clifton Geathers surprised USC coaches and NFL scouts by declaring for the draft as an underclassman after his lone season as a starter for the Gamecocks.
"I felt that I made the right decision," Geathers said at USC's pro day. "Hopefully, God handles everything and I finish out well."
His NFL bloodlines and freakish build - he measured nearly 6-foot-8 and 297 pounds, with 36 3/4-inch arms, at USC's pro day last month - intrigued scouts, some of whom view Geathers as an offensive tackle.
USC defensive line coach Brad Lawing said Geathers sees himself as a defensive player, and Lawing agrees.
"His dad thought he was an offensive player. We recruited him as a defensive player the whole way through," Lawing said. "I thought he was a defensive end, and he proved to be a pretty good one."
Geathers played well down the stretch last season, highlighted by a five-tackle game against Florida that included 1 1/2 sacks of Tim Tebow.
And then he was gone without any formal announcement.
Geathers followed the lead of his brother and a cousin in foregoing his senior season. The Bengals drafted Robert Jr. in the fourth round in 2004 after he left Georgia a year early. Jeremy Geathers, Jumpy's son, went undrafted in 2008 after becoming the second player in UNLV history to leave school early.
Lawing believes Clifton Geathers will have a productive pro career - in time.
"I told people when he first got here his best years are way down the road ahead of him. His football IQ was not very high when he got here, and he improved tremendously in the three years he was here," Lawing said.
Geathers said he has taken down "the rearview mirror" and is moving forward, confident that his family members can help him deal with any bumps in the road.
"They comfort me a lot," he said. "Anything I need - any help, any advice, anything I need to talk about - they're there for me."