CAPE GIRARDEAU - Eugene Amano will indeed receive an opportunity to play in the National Football League.
That became official Sunday afternoon when Southeast Missouri State University's All-American center was picked by the Tennessee Titans in the seventh and final round of the NFL draft, the 239th selection among 255 players taken.
"I'm really excited. It's been a dream of mine for the longest time," Amano said via telephone from his family home in San Diego, Calif. "I'm glad it's over, but now it's up to me to make it a reality."
Amano is the second Southeast football player to be drafted by the NFL in the past two years, following wide receiver Willie Ponder, who was taken by the New York Giants in the sixth round last year. Ponder wound up making the Giants' roster.
Prior to last year, no Southeast player had been drafted since 1998, when defensive lineman Angel Rubio went in the seventh round to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Rubio played only briefly in the NFL.
Amano, a 6-foot-3, 315-pounder who won the Rimington Award as the top center in Division I-AA following the 2003 season, said the Titans were one of the teams that had shown the most interest in him prior to the draft.
"They came to our pro day workout at SEMO and their guy really seemed to like me," Amano said. "He thought I was a good player and I was hoping they'd draft me."
Amano, a four-year starter for the Indians, spent Sunday with his family watching the televised draft. But he didn't have to actually see his name appear on the screen to know something good was in store. Titans head coach Jeff Fisher took care of that.
"Coach Fisher called me right before they drafted me, talked to me a little bit and told me they were going to take me," Amano said. "We were all sitting around waiting to see what was going to happen. When I got that initial call, everybody was really excited. Then when we saw my name up there, it was great."
Amano said he will report to the Titans' facilities in Nashville on Thursday and participate in a mini-camp this weekend. There will be several other mini-camps prior to the official start of training camp this summer.
"I'm really anxious to have it get started," he said. Amano, who said he was grateful to his coaches at Southeast for helping him develop as a player and reach this point, knows he won't be guaranteed anything and making the Titans' roster will be difficult. But he's confident he'll be the second Southeast product to reach the NFL in two years.
"Now the hard work really begins, but hopefully I'll have a great shot to make the team," he said.
Amano was one of just two Ohio Valley Conference players taken in the draft, the other being Eastern Kentucky center Larry Turner, who went to the St. Louis Rams with the pick immediately preceding Amano.