PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – BYU linebacker Sione Takitaki was selected by the Cleveland Browns with the 17th pick of the third round and 80th selection overall in the 2019 NFL Draft on Friday
“I’m very excited for Sione,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “He will fit perfectly with his talents in Cleveland with a really good coaching staff. Sione is a versatile athlete and really took advantage of his experience playing three different positions for us. He will just continue to get better.”
With his selection, Takitaki becomes the fifth Cougar linebacker and 17th BYU defender to be selected in one of the opening three rounds of the annual NFL Draft.
The 6-foot-1, 238-pound linebacker is the 38th BYU player to be taken in one of the first three rounds and the 18th former Cougar to be a third-round pick. The last BYU player taken in the third round was linebacker Fred Warner, who went 70th overall to the San Francisco 49ers in the last year’s draft.
Takitaki joins Warner as the only BYU linebackers to be selected in the third round of the annual draft. They join Kyle Van Noy (2014, 2nd Round, Detroit), Rob Morris (2000, 1st Round, Indianapolis) and Todd Shell (1984, 1st Round, San Francisco) as BYU linebackers who have been drafted in one of the first three rounds.
Historically, Takitaki is the 15th BYU linebacker to be selected in the NFL draft. A BYU player has been selected each of the past four years and in six of the last seven drafts. The Cougars have been represented in 46 of the last 50 drafts and in 65 of the 84 conducted overall.
Takitaki is the 142nd former BYU player to be drafted by the NFL. An additional 189 Cougars have received NFL opportunities as free agents entering this year’s free agency signings. A native of Fontana, California, Takitaki was BYU’s top tackler in 2018, ranking 31st in the nation with 118 tackles.
The 6-foot-1, 238-pound linebacker was an athletic and versatile defender for the Cougars, playing both outside and middle linebacker positions as well as defensive end during his career at BYU. Following the season, Takitaki participated in both the Reese’s Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine game, where he earned All-Shrine Team honors by The Draft Network for his outstanding play.
A team captain, Takitaki earned National Defensive Player of the Week honors in 2018 after helping the Cougars defeat No. 6 Wisconsin and finished his season setting a BYU bowl record with career-best 19 tackles in BYU’s bowl victory. He was named to the All-Bowl Team by both USA Today and Sports Illustrated. A Phil Steele All-Independent First Team honoree, Takitaki also led BYU in both unassisted (74) and assisted (44) tackles in 2018 and recorded nine tackles for loss, three sacks, four quarterback hurries, three pass breakups and a forced fumble.