Five Cougars drafted overall as Tonga, Wilcox, Milne selected on Saturday
PROVO, Utah — Five BYU players were drafted in the 2021 NFL Draft—the most since 2002—as defensive lineman Khyiris Tonga, cornerback Chris Wilcox and wide receiver Dax Milne each had his name called in the seventh round on Saturday.
Tonga was taken by the Chicago Bears, Wilcox by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and wide receiver Dax Milne by the Washington Football Team to join BYU quarterback Zach Wilson (first round No. 2 overall to Jets) and offensive lineman Brady Christensen (third round to Panthers) who were drafted on Thursday and Friday, respectively. The five selections are the most drafted players for the Cougars since the 2002 draft following BYU’s 12-2 season in 2001.
“I am really happy for Khyiris, Chris and Dax,” said BYU head coach Kalani Sitake. “I am so proud of Khyiris and all he has achieved in his life and for our football program. Chris has done a great job developing as a cover corner and has the size and speed to play at the next level. Dax has impressed and gotten better every year culminating with a tremendous All-America season in 2020. I love each of these guys and look forward to following their careers in the NFL.”
Milne is the 11th BYU wide receiver to be selected in the NFL draft. The last BYU wide receiver drafted was All-American Austin Collie, who was a fourth-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2009.
Tonga is the 30th Cougar defensive lineman to be drafted overall. The last BYU defensive lineman drafted was Scott Young, who was a fifth-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2005.
Wilcox is the 15th BYU defensive back to be selected in the NFL draft. The last BYU defensive back drafted was safety Derwin Gray, who was a fourth-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 1993, while the last corner drafted was Brian Mitchell in 1991 as a seventh-round choice of the Atlanta Falcons.
With their selections, Tonga becomes the 19th defensive lineman to be selected in one of the seven rounds of the annual NFL Draft (former drafts included more rounds), while Wilcox is the eighth defensive back and Milne the seventh receiver. Overall, they are among 96 Cougars to be taken in one of the seven rounds and among 20 to be seventh-round picks.
The last BYU player taken in the seventh round was running back Harvey Unga, who was selected by the Chicago Bears in the 2010 supplemental draft, while fullback Fui Vakapuna, who was picked by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2009 draft, was the last seventh-round BYU pick in the annual spring draft.
The five BYU players selected in the 2002 draft included tight end Doug Jolley (2nd Round, Raiders), defensive lineman Ryan Denney (2nd Round, Bills), quarterback Brandon Doman (5th Round, 49ers), running back Luke Staley (7th Round, Lions) and defensive lineman Brett Keisel (7th Round, Steelers). The 2002 draft was also the last draft BYU had multiple picks in the seventh round.
The Cougars have been represented in 45 of the last 50 drafts and in 66 of the 86 conducted overall. BYU has now had 147 players drafted by the NFL since the team’s first draft choice in 1938 (John Stringham, Back, 9th round).
A 2021 team captain, Tonga played in 50 career games beginning his freshman year and made 32 starts for BYU. With unique athleticism for such a big man, he made five pass breakups from his DL position and chased down a ball carrier from behind to force a fumble with adding nine career pass breakups, including two against USC in 2019 and a blocked kick against rival Utah.
During his career at BYU, he tallied 130 total tackles with 69 solo stops, 15 tackles for loss with 7.5 sacks. A South Jordan, Utah native, Tonga was a first-team Phil Steele All-Independent while anchoring the BYU’s defense making a significant impact far beyond recording stats, allowing Cougars to stop the run and apply pressure in the backfield often with only a three-man front while dropping eight players.
The 6-foot-2, 325-pound defensive lineman also helped BYU’s defense in 2020 rank No. 4 in scoring defense (15.3), No. 10 in total defense (317.4), No. 19 in rushing defense (119.9) and No. 22 in passing defense (197.5).
A 2020 first-team Phil Steele All-Independent honoree, Wilcox finished his career at BYU playing in 46 games with 16 starts. He totaled 88 tackles with 68 solo stops as well as three tackles for loss and eight pass breakup.
The Fontana, California, native was BYU’s best cover corner blanketing opponent receivers, often keeping opponent QBs from throwing his way. Wilcox had a career-high nine tackles at Wisconsin in 2018 with a career-high six solo stops and recorded two tackles for loss against McNeese State that same year.
A 6-foot-2, 198-pounder, Wilcox helped BYU’s defense in 2020 rank No. 4 in scoring defense (15.3), No. 10 in total defense (317.4), No. 19 in rushing defense (119.9) and No. 22 in passing defense (197.5) while recording 18 tackles and one pass breakup in 2020.
A Pro Football Focus All-America Second Team and Phil Steele All-America Third Team, Milne played in 35 career games, starting 12 in his three years at BYU. The South Jordan, Utah, native totaled 101 career receptions for 1,542 yards tallying a 12.48 yards per reception mark and 11 touchdowns while also added 24 rushing attempts for 106 yards.
As a junior, Milne finished the 2020 season ranked nationally at No. 4 in receiving yards (1,188), tied at No. 7 in catches (70), tied at No. 18 in receiving touchdowns (8) and No. 19 in receiving yards per game (99.0). A deep threat, Milne brought in a career-long 78-yard pass in 2020 and was the top wide receiver among all Independents in receiving yards, yards per game and receptions per game in 2020 while also finishing with six 100-yard games.
Along with being a consistent target in the 2020 season, Milne also showed his speed a kickoff and punt returns. The 6-foot, 193-pound wideout returned a career 12 punt returns for 60 yards with a long of 31 yards and two kickoff returns for 32 yards with a career-long of 20-yards.
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