Five rounds of the NFL draft had passed, and Fendi Onobun figured it was time to get serious.

"At the end of the fifth round, I said, 'All right, Dad, let's sit down,'" Onobun said.

He never had a chance to.

"Then the phone rang and it was a 314 area code," Onobun said.

The voice on the other end asked Onobun if he was ready to become a St. Louis Ram.

The Rams took Onobun with the first pick in the sixth round Saturday, the next step on a surprising journey Onobun has made from a four-year basketball player at Arizona to a walk-on football player at Houston to a pro.

"I'm just blessed. I'm so thankful in my situation. I'm trying to think of words to have a proper conversation," Onobun said from Houston, where friends and family celebrated loudly in the background. "I knew I was told I would go between the sixth and seventh rounds, but you just never know. But there were a lot of tight ends getting drafted, and I just knocked them off my list as it went down."

Onobun, 23, was fortunate.

None of the Arizona Wildcats' 11 remaining draft prospects was taken in Saturday's portion of the draft, which included the fourth through seventh rounds.

Cornerback Devin Ross, linebacker Vuna Tuihalamaka, safety Cam Nelson, wide receiver Terrell Turner, tailback Nick Booth and H-back Chris Gronkowski, among others, immediately began negotiating free agent deals.

Nelson will fly to Chicago on Thursday for a Bears minicamp. Gronkowski has been linked to the Dallas Cowboys, and Booth has been talking to a handful of teams. One of Booth's possible destinations, the Seattle Seahawks, vanished Saturday when coach Pete Carroll orchestrated trades for running backs LenDale White and Leon Washington.

Teams can announce free agent signings beginning today.

Rams general manager Billy Devaney told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the 6-foot-6, 249-pound Onobun is a "project," a statement few could challenge. Onobun caught just two passes for 33 yards and a touchdown in his one season in college football, but wowed scouts on his pro day.

The Rams did not bring Onobun in for interviews, as did teams such as the Seahawks, Giants, Jets and Panthers, but they worked him out in Houston on Tuesday.

After that meeting, Onobun said he felt like the Rams were a possibility.

"I worked out with their tight ends coach and they said, 'We had a great time with you,' " Onobun said. "I felt like they must be pretty serious, but you never know. I'm really excited."

By the time the sixth round began, Onobun was in demand.

University of Houston special teams coordinator Tony Levine said the tight end probably wouldn't have lasted much longer. Levine received two text messages during the Cougars' spring game Saturday from teams saying they were about to draft him.

Minutes later, they sent follow-up texts saying it was too late.

"It was a great spot for him and a great franchise for him to go to," Levine said. "Fendi's going to be able to do whatever a team wants. He can block, he's physical and with his speed and size, he'll be able to stretch the field. I think he would have been a good fit for any team, but with a new quarterback coming in and a coaching staff in their second year, it really is a good fit."

Onobun wasn't the only player with UA connections who was drafted Saturday.

The Bears selected offensive tackle J'Marcus Webb, who signed with the Wildcats in 2008 but was unable to qualify academically, in the seventh round. Webb attended West Texas A&M, where he played two seasons.

On StarNet: Follow the Arizona Wildcats through the off-season on Ryan Finley's blog:


Whom the Arizona Cardinals selected on Saturday, the final day of the NFL draft:

• O'Brien Schofield, OLB, Wisconsin, Round 4, 130th overall pick

• John Skelton, QB, Fordham, Round 5, 155th pick

• Jorrick Calvin, CB, Troy, Round 6, 201st pick

• Jim Dray, TE, Stanford, Round 7, 233rd pick