Browns choose Terps' Sanders

DB goes in 4th round

UM lineman Cowsette picked by 'Skins in 7th

NFL Draft

April 17, 2000|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Lewis Sanders was the calmest person in his Staten Island, N.Y., home during the weekend, when his NFL draft dreams seemed to be falling apart.

"Everybody in my family and my friends were more disappointed than I was," said the junior Maryland defensive back, who had to wait until 10: 55 yesterday morning to get a call from the Cleveland Browns, who were about to select him with their first pick in the fourth round.

"I had just stepped in the shower when my father came in and told me to turn the water off," said Sanders, the 95th player taken in the draft. "I thought I would get out in time to watch the draft start on TV at 11 o'clock. But the Browns were calling me a little early and it was just good to hear from someone."

It had been a long Saturday for Sanders, who gave up his final year of eligibility at Maryland with promises from some draft experts that he would go late in the first round or early in the second.

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Sanders had attracted interest around the NFL last season when he got off to a quick start for the Terps, leading the nation in interceptions and kickoff returns through the first four games. He went on to intercept six passes and average 26.8 yards a kickoff return with his 4.28 speed.

Sanders also recovered three fumbles and broke up 14 passes.

"My name was up there and I guess no one wanted me," Sanders said. "I guess they were all worried about my shoulder [nerve damage that forced him to miss the 1998 season] and the fact I had only played one year since then. I want to prove them all wrong."

But there is no burning anger or bitterness in Sanders, 21.

"If God has plans for me to make a lot of money, my skills will prove it someday and I'll be rewarded," he said. "Right now I'm just happy to be going to Cleveland and being with Kendall [Ogle, former Terps linebacker who enters his second year with the Browns]."

Former Los Angeles Lakers standout Norm Nixon is Sanders' agent.

"I want to find out what happened," Nixon said. "All indications to me were that Lewis would go in the late first or early second round. But he'll still get a nice three-year contract with a nice signing bonus."

Sanders will likely receive a contract worth about $250,000 a year and a signing bonus of $25,000.

While Sanders dropped at least two rounds, there were no surprises for Maryland teammate Delbert Cowsette, who was selected by the Washington Redskins in the seventh round.

Despite being a first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference defensive tackle, the 6-1, 274-pound Cowsette wasn't expecting to go earlier than the seventh round.

"I was even prepared to try and make it as a free agent," Cowsette said. "That's because I'm 6-1. I'm not the prototype NFL defensive lineman who is 6-4 and 290 pounds."

Cowsette was coached at Maryland two years ago by Washington defensive line coach Rubin Carter, who was willing to take a shot on the Cleveland native.

"I make plays," Cowsette said. "I'm relentless and never stop. I'm not out there to kill grass."

Redskins player personnel director Vinny Cerrato said Cowsette will fit in well.

"We were looking for a change of pace guy to come in who can confuse people," Cerrato said. "You know, a quick little guy who can get lost in there among Big Daddy [Dan Wilkinson] and Stubby [Dana Stubblefield]."

Sanders and Cowsette were the lone Maryland players selected.

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