Tualatin High School grad Taylor Hart likely to be selected in this week's NFL draft

by: ERIC EVANS, UNIVERSITY OF OREGON - DUCK DYNASTY -- Tualatin High School graduate Taylor Hart, a three-year starter at Oregon, should be selected in this week's NFL draft.EUGENE — Taylor Hart is relaxing a little bit.

The 2009 Tualatin High School graduate is enjoying some free time these days.

But that’s all about to change — big time, in a big way.

And Hart is pretty excited about it.

Hart, who recently completed his senior season with the University of Oregon football team, is expected to be selected in the 2014 National Football League draft, which will be held today (Thursday) through Saturday at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

“This is exciting, and I’m a bit nervous,” Hart said Tuesday by phone from Eugene, where he has been living while working out and getting ready for a possible NFL future. “This is all new to me, but it’s fun. Going from Tualatin to Oregon to the NFL is quite a trip.”

So far, Hart has found a lot of success on that trip.

At Tualatin High School, where he was both a football and basketball standout, Hart, as a senior, helped the Timberwolves reach the quarterfinal round of the Class 6A state football playoffs. That season, Hart earned first-team All-State honors as both an offensive lineman and a defensive lineman.

From Tualatin, Hart went to the University of Oregon, where he became a three-year starter on the defensive line for the Ducks.

And, with the Ducks, the 6-foot-6, 281-pound Hart seemed to save his best for last.

Last fall, as a U of O senior, Hart led all Ducks defensive linemen with 75 total tackles. That mark included 6.5 tackles for losses and 3.5 quarterback sacks, which ranked second on the team.

He shared University of Oregon MVP honors with quarterback Marcus Mariota while also earning second-team All-Pacific-12 Conference honors.

Hart’s football career at Oregon ended with a 30-7 win over Texas in the 2013 Valero Alamo Bowl, held Dec. 30 in San Antonio. And, as could be expected, Hart went out in a big way. In the Alamo Bowl, he had a game-high 11 total tackles, including half a sack and a tackle for a loss.

It was toward the end of his collegiate football career that Hart started thinking about playing professional football.

“Every little kid wants to play in the NFL,” he said. “Here, my focus was on college. But, during my junior or senior years, I starting thinking that I might have a shot.”

Hart attended the 2014 NFL scouting combine, which was held in late February in Indianapolis. A foot injury that he suffered in January kept him from working out at the event.

“It was a bummer that my foot was hurt, and I wasn’t medically cleared to work out,” Hart said. “But I still went through all of the interviews, and psychological tests. It was a different experience, and a long process.”

Hart added that he talked to the Indianapolis Colts and the Pittsburgh Steelers a lot during the combine, getting to meet Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin.

“It seemed like they were interested,” Hart said.

Hart did get to work out at the University of Oregon’s pro day on March 13.

“That went real well,” he said. “I was able to run well.”

At the Ducks pro day workout, Hart ran a time of 4.85 seconds for the 40-yard dash in addition to bench-pressing 225 pounds 23 times.

Soon after, he drew the interest of another NFL team — the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles, coached by former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, flew Hart out to Philadelphia for a visit in April.

“Going to the Eagles would be nice,” Hart said. “That would be fun.”

But, Hart is quick to say, it doesn’t matter to him what team he ends up with.

“The NFL is a business,” he said. “I know that, and I would be happy playing anywhere.”

And, while Hart isn’t sure where he’ll end up following the NFL draft, he also doesn’t have a real good idea when he’ll be selected.

“I don’t know,” he said with a laugh. “It all kind of matters who you talk to. The third or fourth round would be really nice, but, who knows?” ranks Hart as the No. 11 defensive end prospect and the No. 116 overall prospect for this week’s draft. The site also projects that Hart will be selected in the third or fourth round of this week’s NFL draft. projects Hart to be selected in rounds 4-5. Eric Edholm of Yahoo Sports calls Hart a “Late-round steal.”

Meanwhile, Hart has spent this week preparing for the next step.

“It’s getting crazy,” he said. “I’m going through five years of stuff I’ve collected down here at Oregon. I’m just trying to keep busy.”

During the draft itself, Hart said he’ll likely be heading back up to Tualatin.

“I’m going to try and relax,” he said. “I think I’ll just hang with my family and friends during the draft. I still get up there when I can, and I’ve got some free time to do that now.”

If Hart is selected in this week’s NFL draft, he’ll be the first Tualatin High School graduate picked since Luke Staley was selected in the seventh round of the 2002 draft by the Detroit Lions.

The first round of this year’s NFL draft will be held tonight, starting at 5 p.m. Rounds two and three will be held Friday, starting at 4 p.m. The remaining four rounds will be held Saturday, starting at 9 a.m. The NFL draft will be broadcast on ESPN and the NFL Network.

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