April 29 (Bloomberg) -- The New York Jets selected Temple University defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson in the first round of the National Football League draft.
“Once that 30th pick came around, I just had the feeling they were going to pick me up,” Wilkerson told reporters at Radio City Music Hall in New York last night.
The 6-foot-4, 305-pound native of Linden, New Jersey, was named second-team All-American last year after recording 70 tackles and 9 1/2 sacks in his junior season at Temple.
“He’s going to be an outstanding player,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said at a news conference. “Muhammad really fits with what we want to do defensively.
‘‘I don’t see him as a nose tackle,’’ Ryan added. ‘‘I see where this young man can play defensive end in our system and tackle as well.’’
Wilkerson is the third first-round pick in Temple’s history and the first since 1987, when running back Paul Palmer was chosen by the Kansas City Chiefs. Wilkerson is the 59th player from the Philadelphia-based school to be selected in the draft since 1937 and the fourth to join the Jets.
Wilkerson, who grew up less than 20 miles from the New Meadowlands Stadium that the Jets share with the New York Giants in East Rutherford, New Jersey, learned about his selection while at a restaurant in Linden with a group of about 80 friends and family.
‘‘I didn’t grow up a Jets fan, but right now I am a Jet,’’ Wilkerson said. ‘‘I am proud. I’m happy.’’
The Jets ended last season with the league’s third-best run defense, allowing 1,454 yards on the ground and 11 touchdowns. The team reached the American Football Conference title game for a second consecutive season, losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers one game shy of the Super Bowl.