LEMONT - Like any potential prospect, Graham Pocic's hope was to hear his name called during last weekend's NFL draft.
But the Lemont High School graduate was also realistic, realizing that offseason surgery to his shoulder which limited his exposure to teams at the next level could be a deterrent.
So after the disappointment of not being picked during the seven rounds, the offensive lineman's emotions quickly changed to excitement upon being signed as a free agent by the Houston Texans.
"I was hoping to get drafted but I definitely understood that I might not," Pocic said. "I started getting calls late in the sixth round from O-line coaches from different teams who said they had interest but weren't sure if I would be picked because of the team's needs.
"So watching the seventh round was nerve-wracking, not knowing if it was going to happen. Then literally five minutes after the draft, I talked to my agent and we decided on the Texans. I went from sad about not being drafted to excited about the opportunity."
Pocic said picking the Texans was an easy one.
"Probably the biggest thing when you are undrafted," he said, "is looking for the best opportunity to go in and make the team, make the 53-man roster. In talking with the Texans, they don't have a back-up center. The O-line coach made it clear to me that I could come in and be a back-up right away.
"Now it's up to me to prove that I can play the position and be a valuable bench guy for the team. It's a great opportunity for me."
Currently training in Lemont, Pocic will head to the team's rookie camp on May 9. By that time, he should be virtually back to 100 percent after having his torn labrum repaired in December.
"I've definitely been cleared to pretty much do everything," said Pocic, who was one of 29 undrafted free agents signed by the Texans. "I'm just getting my strength back and getting ready to play football."
"I'm just very excited. It's something I've worked towards for so long and it's an opportunity that not many people get to do. It's definitely an honor to sign an NFL contract."
A 6-foot, 310-pound offensive lineman, Pocic started 10 games last fall for the University of Illinois (he missed two games due to injury), eight at center and two at right tackle. A team captain, he was a honorable-mention All-Big Ten pick by the media.
As a junior, Pocic started all 13 games. He also started all 13 games as a sophomore and played in 10 as a redshirt freshman.
At Lemont, he helped lead the Indians to their first-ever appearance in a state championship game in 2007.
"He's a hard worker, good kid, very respectful," said Lemont football coach Eric Michaelsen, "and he is always wanting to get better. "I know that's his dream, to make it to the NFL."
Pocic follows in a line of recent draftees with ties to Lemont. Coby Fleener, who grew up in Lemont and attended Joliet Catholic High School, was drafted in the second round of the 2012 draft by the Indianapolis Colts and 2007 Lemont graduate David Molk was picked in the seventh round last year by the San Diego Chargers.