How long before you hear “Rocky Top” in the Denver Broncos locker room?
The Broncos have doubled their quotient of Tennessee Vols, signing Peyton Manning as a free agent last month and drafting Malik Jackson on Saturday.
Jackson, a defensive end, went to Denver on the 137th pick of the 2012 NFL draft — the second pick of the fifth round.
Jackson said he’s never met Robert Ayers, an ex-Vol already established at defensive end with the Broncos since 2009.
“I look forward to getting to know Robert Ayers,” Jackson said in a teleconference with Denver media. “I can learn from him.”
The fourth ex-Vol in Denver is punter Britton Colquitt.
It was a quiet Saturday to wrap up the draft. Jackson was the only Vol selected in the seven rounds.
Ex-Vol Bryce Brown, a celebrated freshman tailback in 2009 who transferred to Kansas State, went to Philadelphia on the 229th pick in the seventh round.
Brown will bring fresh legs to the Eagles. He gained 460 yards at UT but carried only three times at Kansas State before quitting the team.
Quarterback B.J. Coleman, another former Vol, was picked by Green Bay near the end of the seventh round, No. 243 overall.
Coleman played two years as a backup at Tennessee but left in the spring of 2010. He put up big passing numbers at Chattanooga the past two seasons and was picked by the Packers on a day when Boise State’s Kellen Moore and South Carolina’s Stephen Garcia went undrafted.
Jackson’s selection at 137 was the latest entry point into the draft for Tennessee since 1975, when punter Neil Clabo went on the 258th pick. Gibril Wilson was the 136th pick in 2004.
The Vols have had at least one draftee every year since being shut out in 1963. The only other year since then that UT has produced just one pick was 2009, ironically, when Ayers went to Denver in the first round.
Jackson and tailback Tauren Poole were the only Vols invited to the NFL Combine. Jackson also represented UT at the Senior Bowl in January.
Poole signed a free-agent deal with Seattle on Saturday night, according to several websites.
Other reported free-agent signings included linebacker Austin Johnson with Baltimore and banished defensive back Janzen Jackson with the New York Giants.
Malik Jackson got a lot done in a short time at Tennessee.
He played his first two years at Southern Cal, then transferred to UT in 2010 and was immediately eligible because the Trojans were banned from postseason play.
Jackson played 25 games at UT, recording eight sacks. He was second-team All-SEC in 2010 and a first-team pick in 2011.
He became the 30th defensive lineman picked in the 2012 draft and the 330th Vol chosen in draft history.
While he played both tackle and end at UT, he’ll be used exclusively outside in the NFL. Jackson played at 267 pounds in 2011 but has bulked up to 285.
“I kind of felt a little small at defensive tackle in the SEC,” Jackson said, “but I just realized it’s all about technique and going out there wanting to really know what you’re doing. That’s what I did and feel like I started to get an upper edge on plays.
“But I feel really good at 285. I’m really comfortable. I’ve really been working at the defensive end area this offseason. I’m just ready to go in there and compete for a job.”
Jackson said leaving USC and spending two years at Tennessee prepared him for this day:
“I just wasn’t really happy at USC after Pete Carroll left and I took my talents somewhere else to really show what I have to the next level and I did and it worked out perfectly for me. I couldn’t be happier.”
By the time Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish was the 253rd and final pick of the draft, the SEC had provided its usual stampede.
Alabama led the way with eight, followed by Georgia (7) and South Carolina (6). Even Kentucky and Vanderbilt topped Tennessee with two picks each.
Ole Miss and Auburn each had but one pick. Florida had only two.
One other East Tennessean heard his named called. Coty Sensabaugh, a cornerback from Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett and Clemson, was picked by the Tennessee Titans in the fourth round.
UT’s slim contribution comes one year after Luke Stocker (4th round) and Denarius Moore (5th round) were the only Vols selected.
The solitary pick this year reflected not only Tennessee’s downturn on the field but also its youth. In a best-case scenario, the Vols could be back strong in the 2013 draft.