NASHVILLE — Former University of Notre Dame defensive tackle Jerry Tillery was selected by the Los Angeles Chargers with the 28th overall pick in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft on Thursday evening. He became the 69th former Irish player to be drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Tillery is the first Notre Dame defensive lineman chosen in the first round of the NFL Draft since Renaldo Wynn was the 21st-overall pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1997. Tillery’s also the first Irish defensive tackle selected in the NFL Draft’s opening round since Bryant Young (No. 7 overall of the San Francisco 49ers) in 1994.
Tillery is the 12th defensive lineman in school history to be taken in the first round of the NFL Draft. In addition to Young, Wynn and Tillery, nine other Irish defensive lineman have been chosen in the first round, including Eric Dorsey (19th overall by the New York Giants in 1986), Ross Browner (eighth overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1978), Steve Niehaus (second overall by the Seattle Seahawks in 1976), Mike Fanning (ninth overall by the Los Angeles Rams in 1975), Walt Patulski (first overall by the Buffalo Bills in 1972), Mike Kadish (25th overall by the Miami Dolphins in 1972), Mike McCoy (second overall by the Green Bay Packers in 1970), Kevin Hardy (seventh overall by the New Orleans Saints in 1968) and Alan Page (15th overall by the Minnesota Vikings in 1967).
Tillery becomes the 15th Notre Dame player ever drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers and first in the first round. He also becomes the first Irish player drafted by the Chargers since Isaac Rochell in the seventh round of the 2017 draft.
Tillery started 40 times in his 50-game, four-year playing career. In 2018, he started all 13 games at defensive tackle and recorded a team-best eight sacks and three forced fumbles. Tillery registered 30 total tackles and 10.5 for loss. According to Pro Football Focus, he ranked in the top-five among FBS interior defensive lineman in quarterback hurries (33, t-2nd) and sacks (8.0, t-4th). Tillery was the fourth-highest rated interior defensive lineman (54.6), second-highest rated pass-rushing interior defensive lineman (43.0) and tied for fourth among FBS interior defensive lineman in sacks (8.0).
Tillery was named First Team All-American in 2018 by both Sports Illustrated and CBS Sports. He also captured Notre Dame’s Lineman of the Year award, presented by the Moose Krause Chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame. He was named to the Pro Football Focus College Team of the Week after 2.0 sacks and a forced fumble in Notre Dame’s Week 1 win over No. 14 Michigan. After 4.0 sacks, a forced fumble and two QB hurries in a rout of No. 7 Stanford, Tillery was named Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week, Bronco Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week and Reese’s Senior Bowl Senior of the Week.