Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert was drafted by the Cleveland Browns with the eighth overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft today. He is the sixth Cowboy since 2009 to be drafted in the first round, a total that leads the Big 12.
Gilbert was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award presented to college football's best defensive back in 2013, as well as a consensus All-American. He had the option to forgo his senior year and enter the 2013 NFL Draft, but chose to return and established himself as one of the premier defensive backs in the country.
"I knew I made the right decision coming back, because I didn't have the year that I wanted to have my junior year," Gilbert said. "To come back and be around these guys that I came in with – I knew the heart that they have to go out every day and play on Saturday for each other. That's just something that I wanted to continue to be around. Coming back for another year, it couldn't hurt me, it could only do me right."
Gilbert finished 2013 with seven interceptions, a total that lead the Big 12 and ranked fourth nationally. He returned two of those interceptions for touchdowns, bringing his career non-offensive touchdown total to eight.
As much of an impact as Gilbert made as a lock-down defender, he made just as much or more of an impact in the kick return game. Gilbert owns the OSU record and Big 12 record with six career kickoff returns for touchdowns. He ranks second all-time at OSU with 2,681 kickoff return yards and holds a career return average of 26.28 yards.
In addition to him being honored as a Jim Thorpe Award finalist, Gilbert was also a first-team Walter Camp All-American, first-team FWAA All-American, second-team Associated Press All-American, first-team All-Big 12 Coaches selection and first-team All-Big 12 Associated Press selection, and received several other honors.
"Justin is a very gifted football player who brings a lot to a team, both on defense and in the return game," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. "He is a playmaker. His decision to come back to Oklahoma State for his senior season really paid off because he established himself as one of the top players in this year's draft. We're very proud of Justin and happy for both him and his family."
Gilbert's selection not only marks the sixth first-round pick in six years for Oklahoma State, but also the third time in the last five years a Cowboy has been taken in the top-10 overall, the 19th overall first-round draft pick in school history and the 17th draft pick of the Mike Gundy coaching era.