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Mark Stoops believes Lonnie Johnson will be first-round pick

Lonnie Johnson (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky has only had 14 first-round draft picks in the history of the National Football League and only three — Tim Couch (1999), Dewayne Robertson (2003) and Bud Dupree (2015) — in the last 20 years.

Linebacker Josh Allen certainly will become UK’s 15th first-round draft pick Thursday night when most expect him to be one of the first five players selected.

But could Kentucky also have a second first-round pick, something that has happened only in 1977 when offensive tackle Warren Bryant and running back Randy Burke went in round one.

“We got a chance to get Lonnie  (Johnson) in there as well,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said Tuesday when discussing the draft.

Johnson, a cornerback, had just one interception last season but has impressed  NFL scouts with workouts since UK’s 10-3 season ended. Stoops said he’s heard from a lot of NFL scouts and so has recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow, a former NFL tight end.

“I got a question from a general manager this morning just on the phone talking and he wanted to confirm the things that he and I had already talked about,” Stoops said. “Hopefully he will get the opportunity to go in the first round and I think he will.”

Johnson had to overcome adversity to get from Gary, Ind., to junior college to Kentucky.

“He has just come from a difficult circumstance and has overcome and won in junior college. Since he has been on campus, I have not had to have one difficult conversation with him. He has handled his business every day that he has been here,” Stoops said. “He goes to class. He graduated early. He works hard. He spent three years being a corner.

“He has great upside. I am not saying he is perfect, but he has done everything right since he has been here. I just have great appreciation for him and he has great upside because he is still learning the game.”

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Here is a list of Kentucky’s first-round NFL draft picks going into Thursday night:

Babe Parilli, 1951

Steve Mellinger, 1954

Lou Michaels, 1958

Irv Goode, 1962

Tom Hutchinson, 1963

Sam Ball, 1964

Warren Bryant, Randy Burke, 1977

Art Still, 1978

Rod Stewart, 1979

George Adams, 1984

Tim Couch, 1999

Dewayne Robertson, 2003

Bud Dupree, 2015

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