Pat Tillman Jersey

A year ago, the Pac-12 defensive player of the year was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. That won’t be the case next week in Nashville, Tennessee.

Ben Burr-Kirven and Vita Vea, products of Sacred Heart Prep and Milpitas, respectively, left the Bay Area to play college football at Washington.

A prototypical NFL prospect, Vea is a 6-foot-4, 347-pound defensive lineman that went 12th overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2018.

Burr-Kirven is 6-0, 230-pound inside linebacker that led the nation in tackles this past season but isn’t quite the physical specimen scouts drool over.

“I don’t see any reason to be upset about that,” Burr-Kirven said last week. “I mean, Vita was a once-in-a-kind-of-generational guy. I know I’m undersized and all that stuff, so I’m not surprised at not being in first-round mock drafts. It doesn’t really bother me that much. Just getting a chance to get drafted and hopefully play is more than enough for me.”

Burr-Kirven more closely mirrors a seventh-round pick out of Arizona State that claimed the 1997 Pac-10 defensive player of the year trophy as an undersized linebacker at 5-11, 202 pounds.

That would be Pat Tillman, a Leland graduate that left the NFL in 2002 to enlist in the U.S. Army and was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in April of 2014.

“Pat Tillman is one of the best stories to come out of this Bay Area,” Burr-Kirven said. “Obviously sad story losing his life, but I think in terms of the football side of it, definitely he’s kind of on the same boat in between safety and linebacker.”

He added: “There’s definitely similarities in terms of the play style.”

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