Vanderbilt All-America defensive back Casey Hayward's dream of playing professional football drew closer to reality late Friday when he was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the second round (No. 62 overall) of the NFL Draft.
Hayward, a product of Perry, Ga., becomes the highest Commodore player taken in the NFL Draft since 2008 when the Chicago Bears picked Vanderbilt offensive lineman Chris Williams 14th overall.
Vanderbilt Head Coach James Franklin said Hayward was a very deserving selection for the Packers.
"I couldn't be happier for Casey. He's a tremendous young man and a great football player who put together a remarkable season and career for our program," Franklin said. "Casey has great football instincts and makes a ton of big plays. He performed at a very high level at the highest level of college football. He also was a pleasure to coach, a guy that would do whatever was needed to help the Commodores win."
To draft Hayward, Green Bay traded its third and fifth-round picks to move up into the second round. Hayward is the first Commodore selected by Green Bay since Hunter Hillenmeyer in 2003.
As a three-year starter, Hayward was also one of the nation's most productive defensive backs. He ended his career tied for the Vanderbilt career record with 15 interceptions. He also holds Commodore single-season and career records for passes defended.
Hayward also was a highly-decorated standout. As a senior, Hayward became the first Commodore to receive All-America honors since defensive back D.J. Moore in 2008. He was named a second team All-America by the Walter Camp Foundation, Rivals.com and Yahoo! Sports.
Hayward also was voted twice as an All-Southeastern Conference defensive back.
As a defensive co-captain in 2011, Hayward ranked fourth in the NCAA with seven interceptions. His role as a cover cornerback helped the 2011 Commodore defense post stunning improvement in the short span of one season, finishing the year among the nation's top 25 units.
During his senior campaign, Hayward made several stellar plays that helped the Commodores reach the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. Early in the year, his 50-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter allowed Vanderbilt to tie Connecticut and helped set the stage for a last-minute Commodore victory. He also posted a pair of interceptions at South Carolina and against Cincinnati in the Liberty Bowl.
Several other Vanderbilt seniors are likely to get selected as the draft continues through Saturday from Radio City Music Hall in New York City.