NFL teams value players who play hard, play physical and love football.
From that standpoint, the Arizona Cardinals landed a gem Friday by selecting former Missouri defensive Markus Golden in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft with the No. 58 overall selection.
“My motor is what you get,” Golden said. “I’ve been playing like this since I was a kid, when someone first put a ball in my hand. I was out there going at it with my big brothers, tackling them. That’s where I learned that at. … That’ll never change. I love the game too much to let that change.”
It doesn’t hurt that Golden also was highly productive at Mizzou. He finished third on the Tigers last season with 78 tackles, trailing only linebackers Kentrell Brothers and Michael Scherer.
Never miss a local story.
Golden also added 10 sacks and 20 tackles for a loss as a senior after totaling 55 tackles, 6 1/2 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss while playing only 40 percent of MU’s snaps as a junior.
“They picked the right guy,” Golden said. “They picked one of the best defensive players in this draft. … This is just the best day of my life and it feels so good. It’s a goal I’ve set all my life, and I’m blessed that I was able to do it.”
Many analysts pegged Golden as a mid-round pick, but he wound up going in the middle of the second round instead — much like former Tigers left tackle, Mitch Morse, who was selected nine picks earlier by the Chiefs.
Golden said he wasn’t surprised to be selected so high.
“I’d be lying if I said I was surprised,” he said. “I’ve worked so hard all these years. … I felt like I deserved to go at least the first or second round. I’m just glad the Arizona Cardinals saw the same things on film and they picked me.”
Golden, 6 feet 2 and 260 pounds, had enough speed to pull away from Toledo’s entire team for a 70-yard interception return touchdown in 2013. He is a St. Louis native who graduated from Affton High School.
He now joins another former Missouri star, fellow linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, in the desert. Weatherspoon signed with Arizona as a free agent during the offseason.
“He’s one of my role models,” Golden said. “Sean Weatherspoon is one of the reasons I wanted to come to Missouri and ball out. He’s a guy I’ve been looking up to since I was being recruited. My whole family looks up to Sean Weatherspoon and has a lot of respect for him, so that’s big for me to be able to play with him.”
It was a big evening for Missouri, which had three players drafted in the first two rounds for the first time since 2009, when Jeremy Maclin went No. 19 to Philadelphia, Ziggy Hood was chosen No. 32 by Pittsburgh and Atlanta picked William Moore at No. 55.
Shane Ray, Golden’s defensive end partner last season, was selected No. 23 in the first round Thursday by the Broncos.
“I’m so excited for my brothers,” Golden said. “All those guys, me and Shane, we worked so hard together every day. Me and Mitch put the teams on our back as captains. Shane put the team on his back on the field, making big plays and helping do whatever we’ve got to do to be a great team. Mitch and Shane deserve it, and I’m so happy for those guys, especially with me caring about the Missouri program so much.”
Golden also said he’s thrilled to move back to outside linebacker, which is where Arizona coaches indicated he’ll play.
“I’m just happy to be standing up,” he said. “I’m happy to be out of the three-point stance now.”
Missouri also had two players, Kony Ealy (No. 60 to Carolina) and Justin Britt (No. 64 to Seattle), selected in the second round last year.
Golden and Morse give Missouri 29 draft picks during the Gary Pinkel era, including 12 of defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski’s linemen.