Delaware State defensive end Rodney Gunter was the Cardinals' fourth-round pick Saturday after trading up.
His name wasn't well-known, he wasn't invited to the Scouting combine and he only played one year of high school football before getting to Delaware State.
But the Cardinals thought enough of defensive end Rodney Gunter to trade away two of their six remaining draft picks Saturday to come up and take him. Gunter plans on making that confidence pay off, especially after the journey he took to be the unlikely fourth-round selection.
"I'm just very surprised," Gunter acknowledged. "It's a dream come true. My God."
But it wasn't a surprise for General Manager Steve Keim, who said a "little birdie" told him that Gunter was going to be picked soon. That's sparked the trade.
"Occasionally you get some intel that tells you where a guy could potentially go," Keim said, adding that he got a call from that team's GM later, confirming the Cardinals had made the right move.
"A lot of fans are probably going to say, 'Who is Rodney Gunter?' " Keim said. "I have a strong conviction, Coach (Brice Arians) has
a strong conviction, in the next couple of years our fans will know real well who Rodney Gunter is.
"It's no different than the way we felt about (wide receiver) John Brown last year out of Pittsburg State, or (cornerback) Justin Bethel coming out of Presbyterian."
Gunter, who had seven sacks last season, didn't play football in high school because his single parent mother struggled to support her three sons. So Gunter, the oldest, worked as a dishwasher and waiter to help the household.
He eventually got to play as a senior, but the late start probably cost him college attention, and Delaware State was the only one to offer a scholarship.
He showed enough on video to impress the Cardinals, who dealt away their sixth-round pick and their original seventh-round pick to swap fourth-round picks with the Browns before taking Gunter. At 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds, Gunter said he expects to play end in the 3-4 in run downs and move inside when used in nickel situations; Arians said Gunter could end up playing all three down lineman positions.
But delving into his background, the Cardinals once again took a player who has shown leadership in his life – in this case, off the field. Gunter talked about being a role model to his 16-year-old little brother, who also could end up in football. He also said he wants to help his small town of Lake Hamilton, Florida, especially when it comes to the local youth.
"All we have is a park," Gunter said. "That's all we have in our neighborhood is a park – no community center, no facility where players can get better and spend time on their craft."
Area scout Zac Canty was the first to pull the Cardinals' attention to Gunter, and as the Cardinals looked more at him, they liked what they saw. Then defensive line coach Brentson Buckner went to work Gunter out.
"My man (Buckner) got off the plane and he was foaming at the mouth," Keim said.
Added Arians, "Buck went to work out 18 to 22 guys out, and he came back raving about this guy's athletic ability."
Images of the players drafted by the Cardinals in the final four rounds of the draft