CHARLOTTE - Nearly two years after being selected in the Major League Baseball draft, Tyler Gaffney has been selected in the NFL Draft.
The Panthers hope the productive Stanford running back will be a hit, picking him in the sixth round.
Chosen by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 24th round in 2012, Gaffney played professional baseball for one year and did well – hitting .297 in the minors. But Gaffney found that he couldn't wait to get back to hitting would-be tacklers rather than baseballs, and he rushed for 1,709 yards and 21 touchdowns in his return last season.
"I had the opportunity after being drafted by the Pirates to play for them. That opportunity obviously doesn't come around for everybody, so it was something I didn't think I could pass up at the time," Gaffney said. "Toward the end of the year, I realized football was my love, that it was something I couldn't put behind me.
"I found out I loved football. When I stepped away, I found out this was what I wanted to do. I can't imagine not playing football."
Carolina has a pair of proven tailbacks in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart on the roster, but general manager Dave Gettleman stayed true to his word and took the best available player with the Panthers' third and final pick on the third and final day of the draft.
"We felt for us, looking at the big picture, that Tyler Gaffney was the best fit," Gettleman said. "Obviously, we want to limit the wear and tear on DeAngelo and Jonathan Stewart, and Tyler Gaffney is a 5-11, 220-pound back that carried the ball 330 times last year and scored 21 touchdowns. He had a real quality senior year at Stanford.
"He's the type of downhill runner that we like, and the other thing he does well is that he's a real good blitz pick-up guy."
Gaffney played on nearly every special teams unit in his first three seasons at Stanford before taking a year off for baseball. He'll do whatever the Panthers ask of him to keep his dream of playing football for a living alive.
"They thought I was a great fit, and I believe the same thing," Gaffney said. "I know they have DeAngelo Williams, an all-star, and a stable of running backs, and I'm excited to be a part of their team.
"This is my love. This is what I want. This is why I came back – for an opportunity to play the sport I love as my career. I'm glad the Carolina Panthers came through and gave me that chance."