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Former Largo High star Dexter McCluster drafted 36th overall by Kansas City Chiefs

Dexter McCluster, a star at Largo High taken 36th overall by the Chiefs, talks on the phone during a party at the Venue in Clearwater.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Dexter McCluster, a star at Largo High taken 36th overall by the Chiefs, talks on the phone during a party at the Venue in Clearwater.

CLEARWATER — Dexter McCluster isn't much bigger than he was as a high school star at Largo. He's still a smidgen under 5 feet 9 and about a dozen pounds heavier at 172.

"Only thing different is my dreads are a little longer," he said.

He is, however, soon to be much richer.

The Ole Miss running back invited seemingly the whole city of Largo to join him Friday at a draft party at the Venue in Clearwater. And they didn't have to wait long. Kansas City chose him with the fourth pick of the second round (36th overall).

"Just barely fell out of the first round," his father, Marcus, said, smiling.

McCluster's selection set off a raucous celebration and capped a long journey. He was considered too small for big-time college football but proved the scouts wrong. As a senior, he became the first SEC player with 1,000 yards rushing and 500 receiving in a season.

Though some scouts question his ability to handle the more physical pro game, others love his lateral quickness and playmaking ability.

"When he was 10, he told me, 'Mom, I'm going to go to college and go to the NFL and buy you a big house,' " his mother, Wendy, said. "And I always said, 'Okay, whatever, just have fun with the game.' He did, and this is how far he's gotten."

MORE SPEED FOR K.C.: McCluster could return kicks with Javier Arenas, a former star at Tampa's Robinson High whom the Chiefs took 50th overall. Last season the Chiefs were 27th in punt returns and 25th in kickoff returns.

The 5-8, 197-pound Arenas had 1,752 yards (on 125 punt returns) at Alabama, second in major college history. He also set an SEC record with seven touchdowns on punt returns. Arenas, who had an interception in January's BCS title game, also will provide depth at defensive back.

McNABB PAYOFF: With the pick acquired from Washington for quarterback Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia selected USF's Nate Allen.

"Just being in the NFL draft is an honor to me; just being considered with the whole Donovan McNabb thing," the defensive back said. "I'm just so thrilled and excited, and I'm ready to get up there and start working hard."

Allen, the 37th overall pick, played free safety at USF. The Eagles have been looking for one since Brian Dawkins signed with Denver after 2008.

"I definitely want to come in and play right away," Allen said. "But wherever I'm needed — special teams, anywhere, nickel — to help them win, I'm there."

Bevy of Gators: Three Florida players were selected in the second round, giving them a nation-high six picks in the first two rounds.

DE Jermaine Cunningham and DE Carlos Dunlap went 53rd to New England and 54th to Cincinnati, respectively. Florida coach Urban Meyer has had eight defensive linemen drafted since 2006, the most in the nation.

LB Brandon Spikes went 62nd to New England. Spikes tied for third on the team last season with 68 tackles (36 solo) and was the nation's only player with four interception returns for touchdowns over the past two seasons. But ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said Spikes went low because of his workouts at the combine and pro day.

"He had great productivity, really an instinctive kid," Kiper said. "But that 40(-yard dash) time (5.0 seconds) really threw a lot of people off."

S Major Wright was the only Gator taken in the third round, 75th overall by the Bears.

During an appearance on ESPN, Meyer said the high number of Gators selected was a solid endorsement of the program. "I think it's like a six-hour commercial for the Gators," he said.

Times staff writer Antonya English contributed to this report, which used information from Times wires.

Former Largo High star Dexter McCluster drafted 36th overall by Kansas City Chiefs 04/24/10 [Last modified: Saturday, April 24, 2010 12:22am]

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