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Utes football: Eagles pick Utah's Joe Kruger in 7th round of NFL draft

SALT LAKE CITY — Opportunity knocked twice for Joe Kruger.

As a senior out of Pleasant Grove High School, Kruger turned down a chance for play football for Chip Kelly when he opted to accept a scholarship to Utah instead of Oregon.

Now, three years later, Kruger is going to lace them up for Kelly. This time in the National Football League, where Kelly is the new head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles — the team that selected Kruger in the seventh round (212th overall) of the draft Saturday.

“It’s kind of crazy,” Kruger said. “I didn’t play for him in college and now I’m playing for him in the pros.”

The 6-foot-7, 280-pound junior, who opted to bypass his final season of collegiate eligibility, earned honorable mention all-Pac-12 honors in 2012 — making 30 tackles, eight tackles for loss and a team-high six sacks. Kruger also returned an interception 24 yards for a touchdown, forced two fumbles, had two quarterback hurries, a pass breakup and a blocked field goal.

“I don’t know a lot about their defensive line situation, but I know that Joe is Chip Kelly’s kind of guy,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “I know Chip Kelly and he likes those hard-working, no-nonsense players, which is exactly what Joe is.”

Kruger was one of four Pac-12 players drafted by Kelly. The new Eagles coach also took Stanford tight end Zach Ertz (second round), USC quarterback Matt Barkley (fourth round) and Oregon State cornerback Jordan Poyer (seventh round).

“He’s coached in the league and he knows these people very well,” Kruger said. “So I’m not surprised at that and I hope it works out well.”

As for Kruger, Kelly didn’t expect him to be on the board in the seventh round. Kruger was also surprised and then relieved.

“I was sitting there waiting for a long time, so I was glad the phone call finally came and that I was fortunate enough to get picked by the Eagles,” he said. “I’m just excited, really excited.”

Kruger, who expressed gratitude for his time at Utah, is the third member of his family to be drafted into the NFL from the Utes in recent years. His oldest brother Paul was selected in the second round by the Baltimore Ravens in 2009 and brother-in-law Tony Bergstrom was taken in the third round last year by the Oakland Raiders.

Joe’s other older brother, Dave, signed a preferred free agent deal with the Browns shortly after the draft Saturday.

Other reported signings by undrafted players included offensive lineman Sam Brenner (Miami), return specialist Reggie Dunn (Pittsburgh), cornerback Ryan Lacy (New Orleans), cornerback Moe Lee (Baltimore), tight end David Rolf (San Diego), punter Sean Sellwood (Atlanta), center Tevita Stevens (Washington) and cornerback Reggie Topps (Arizona).


Twitter: @DirkFacer