The first NFL Draft was held February 8, 1936, at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with the then nine clubs. The league with help from team officials put together a list of 90 players (10 picks for each team) based on "media insights or haphazard scouting by team executives." Picks were written on a blackboard, and six of those choices that year were Gophers.
Since 1936 the University of Minnesota have had 254 (333 if you believe Wikipedia) players' names called in the NFL Draft. Here is a breakdown with the important info you'll need.
Babe Levoir, photo from the family.
FIRST GOPHER DRAFTED Vernal "Babe" Alfred Levoir, in 1936 2nd round pick 3rd by the Brooklyn (football) Dodgers - Babe was a All-Star QB at Minnesota but played in the league as a back.
Verne Gagne, world champion wrestler, and all big ten footballer for the Gophers, photo from 1965. Via MNHS
SPECIAL SHOUTOUT TO WRESTLER, AND GOPHER FOOTBALLER VERNE GAGNE WHO WAS DRAFTED IN 1947 (round 16 pick 145 by the Chicago Bears), WHO RECENTLY PASSED AWAY. RIP VERNE.
Clayton Tonnemaker, consensus All-American, center/linebacker.
BEST NAME lotta good choices here, but I'm going with my favorite Clayton Tonnemaker, his surname alone sounds like it punishes and maybe that helped him finish 7th in the Heisman voting before being the 4th overall pick in the 1950 draft going to Green Bay.
Honorable mention to Harold Van Every (Tackle taken by Green Bay 1st round pick 9, in 1940), Charley Schultz (Back taken by Green Bay 17th round pick 189, in 1939), and Art Meadowcraft (Guard taken by Buffalo 8th round pick 227 in 1976).
Ed Widseth, drafted 4th overall by the NY Giants in 1937.
HIGHEST PICK The Gophers have had 17 first round selections and the aforementioned Tonnemaker and Ed Widseth were taken 4th overall.
Ed Widseth, Guard taken in 1937 by New York Giants, had been a 3 year All-American compiling a 23-1 collegiate record. In fact the only game he lost was mostly his own fault, punching a Northwestern player in 1936 and that penalty led to the Wildcats scoring the game winning touchdown, ending a 28 game win streak.
MR IRRELEVANT (BUT STILL #1 IN OUR HEARTS) Dave Winfield was taken by the Vikings in 1973 with the 429th overall pick (round 17) as a tight end.
SPECIAL SHOUTOUT TO HIM AS THE ONLY GOPHER BASEBALL/BASKETBALL PLAYER WHO NEVER PLAYED COLLEGE FOOTBALL TO GET DRAFTED.
Dave Winfield, Mountain Dew/Hall of Fame bobble head doll from 2001 in the MNHS Collection.
BEST GOPHER DRAFT CLASS: 1950. El Sid is fond of calling the 1949 G squad the best collection of talent ever, getting 13 players drafted. Clayton Tonnemaker led things off, followed by Leo Nomelini (only Gopher footballer to have been born in Italy) who was the San Francisco 49ers first pick as a expansion team. Bud Grant, and Billy Bye were also part of Minnesota's draft class of 1950.
1949 team photo, U of M yearbook.
BEST PLAYER DRAFTED TURNT COACH: It's Bud. Both Bud Wilkinson and Bud Grant were drafted as players and had Hall of Fame coaching careers. Wilkinson was picked in the 3rd round 29th overall by Green Bay in 1937, and Grant was taken 14th overall by Philadelphia in 1950.
Looking forward to the 2015 Draft: If Maxx is picked earlier than the 3rd round he will be the highest Gopher TE ever drafted. Assuming David Cobb is drafted (/knocks on wood) he will be the 12th running back Minnesota has sent to the League.
Looking ahead to the 2016 Draft: If Peter Mortell hears his name called he'll be the first Gopher punter to ever get drafted, fingers crossed!