Former South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst was selected with the 25th overall pick by the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday night.
Hurst, a Florida native who joined the Gamecocks as a walk-on, becomes the first USC player to be picked in the first round since Jadeveon Clowney was the No. 1 overall selection in the 2014 draft. He is the first offensive player from South Carolina to be selected in the first round since wide receiver Troy Williamson in 2005.
Shortly after being drafted, Hurst said via Twitter: "A dream come true! Thank you to the Ravens for believing in me! Now ... it’s time to get to work!"
This is the second time Hurst has been taken in a professional draft. He was selected in the 17th round of the Major League Baseball draft in 2012 and spent two years in the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league system. After leaving baseball, he walked on at South Carolina in 2015. In the next three years, he amassed 100 catches for 1,281 yards and three touchdowns. He set the school’s all-time record for receptions by a tight end and was a first-team All-SEC selection in 2017.
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Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome called Hurst on Thursday night to inform him of the selection. Hurst watched the draft with his family at his Jacksonville, Fla., home.
"I could not be happier right now," Hurst said, according to the Ravens official Twitter account. "When I was on my visit, I had a strange feeling it was a perfect fit."
Newsome was an All-American at Alabama and made the NFL Hall of Fame playing tight end for the Cleveland Browns.
"He can play outside, use his body, pivot to get away from the safety, catches the ball naturally," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said of Hurst on the network's coverage of the draft. "He's an athlete, folks. He is a willing participant in the run game, and that's why the Ravens like him."
Prior to the draft, Hurst told The State that being selected in the first round was his goal after leaving South Carolina with one year of eligibility remaining. He could not be reached immediately after the draft.
“Oh man, I would love it. Golly,” he said. “It’s been my goal since the beginning of last season. I wanted to be All-SEC, I checked that box. The next thing on the list is I wanted to be a first-rounder. The way that I’m working right now, and with the numbers I am putting up, hopefully I can make that happen in April.”
The second and third round of the draft will be held Friday night. Rounds four through seven will be held Saturday. Linebacker Skai Moore, defensive linemen Taylor Stallworth, Dante Sawyer and Ulric Jones, defensive backs Jamarcus King, D.J. Smith and Chris Lammons and offensive linemen Cory Helms and Alan Knott also could be selected in this year’s draft.