The Panthers selected Jimmy Clausen with the 48th overall pick. (AP)
CHARLOTTE – A smiling Marty Hurney couldn’t hold back his enthusiasm as he walked into the media room Friday night disbelieving what had just happened.
The always aggressive Hurney spent most of the day trying to trade up in the second round – beginning with the St. Louis Rams, who owned the first pick at No. 33 – in an effort to get Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen. But the cost of doing business was simply more than the Panthers could afford. As it turned out, the Panthers didn’t need to move up. As the luck of the Irish would have it, Clausen fell to them.
“Sometimes the best deals are the ones you don't make, and that was the case tonight," Hurney said. "We were very fortunate (Clausen) was there.”
Although considered by many a top 10 pick, Clausen fell all the way to No. 48 and the Panthers wasted no time snatching him up the kid who’d cut his teeth in Charlie Weis’ offense at Notre Dame – which happens to be the same offensive system the Panthers employ.
"We think he's an excellent quarterback," said Hurney. "We feel extremely fortunate to get a quarterback of his ability with the 48th pick."
Hurney said the team had Clausen rated "very high on our board" and was certain the Arizona Cardinals were going to select him when they traded up one spot ahead of Carolina. Hurney said he breathed a sigh of relief when the Cardinals took linebacker Daryl Washington.
Rather than watching the NFL draft Friday night Clausen spent the evening relaxing and playing pool with brothers Rick and Casey -- both former players at the University of Tennessee -- and some friends in Palm Springs, Calif., when his phone rang. His brother Rick scrambled to pick it up and handed it to Jimmy.
On the other line was Panthers coach John Fox.
Clausen said Fox told him the Panthers tried to trade up with the Rams to get him but that it didn't work out.
"I'm so excited to be a member of the Carolina Panthers and I just want to tell you that (this team) made the best pick in the NFL draft and I'm going to make you guys proud," Clausen said on a conference call.
He's expected to open minicamp as the No. 2 quarterback behind Matt Moore, but made it clear he has high aspirations.
"My goal is to try to be the starter from day one,” Clausen said. “That is going to be my mentality -- be the starter from day one and whatever the coaches want me to do, I will do it to the best of my ability. At the end of the day if I'm good enough to play then I will play. If not I will do everything I can to help the team win."
Clausen has been the face of the Notre Dame program for the past three years and has shown improvement in virtually every aspect of his game each year. He’s a classic drop back quarterback with good mechanics and a quick release.
Clausen became only the second quarterback in school history to throw for more than 3,000 yards twice in his career, finishing with 8,148 yards, second behind only Brady Quinn in total passing yards. He ranks first or second in 32 passing categories for the Irish but was only 16-18 as a starter.
He left Notre Dame after his junior year when coach Charlie Weis was fired.
Clausen is the first quarterback the Panthers have selected in the first round since taking Kerry Collins fifth overall in 1995.
Clausen believes playing in Weis’ pro-style offense will make the transition to the NFL much easier.
“I think it’s going to help me tremendously being in coach Weis’ system,” Clausen said. “Coach Fox told me it’s the same exact system I played in the last three years at Notre Dame so I’m excited about that. I’m going to hit the ground with my feet running and do everything I can to help the organization win.”
Clausen called being drafted by the Panthers "a dream come true."
When asked if he was surprised by his freefall in the draft, Clausen said, "To be honest I didn't know where I was going to go. I just wanted to get my name called. But I couldn't be more excited than I am right now…. It’s a dream come true. Everything happens for a reason.”