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New York Giants draft UMass running back Michael Cox

University of Massachusetts running back Michael Cox (5) was drafted by the New York Giants in the seventh round of the NFL draft Saturday.

University of Massachusetts running back Michael Cox (5) was drafted by the New York Giants in the seventh round of the NFL draft Saturday. Purchase photo reprints »

When Michael Cox decided to transfer from Michigan to the University of Massachusetts for his final collegiate season, he wanted to prove he could be a featured running back for a Football Bowl Subdivision team.

He did it well enough to be taken in the NFL draft. Cox was chosen Saturday by the New York Giants as the 47th selection in the seventh and final round of the draft, the 253rd overall pick and the second-to-last player picked.

“That was the main reason I went to UMass to get on the field and get more opportunities to show I could play in the NFL,” said Cox, who is from Dorchester. “I feel like I have a lot more to do, but I’m happy that I got this far so far.”

As the draft was winding down, the Chicago Bears contacted Cox with an offer to sign him as an undrafted free agent. Cox was in the process of going through the paperwork when his call waiting beeped. Giants coach Tom Coughlin was on the other line telling Cox that New York was selecting him.

“I was literally about to sign (with Chicago). I had the paperwork ready and was about to set that all up,” Cox said. “They put me on hold for a second. That’s when New York called and it was Coughlin. He said, ‘We’re going to draft you in a couple seconds here.’”

Moments later the pick was announced on television and the friends and relatives who were in Cox’s living room for a draft party began screaming excitedly.

Giants general manager Jerry Reese told the Newark Star Ledger he was glad to get Cox.

“If you look closely and do what us scouts do, we’re excited about him,” Reese said. “We think he’s got a chance. He’s a big and powerful elusive guy with speed, so he’s got a lot of things that we like about him.”

Cox is the first UMass player to be drafted since the New York Jets took Vlad Ducasse in the second round of the 2010 draft. Ciox is the 24th player in program history to be taken in either the NFL or AFL draft.

The Giants have a history with the Minutemen. They signed both Victor Cruz, who has emerged as a Pro Bowler, and Julian Talley, who was cut, as undrafted free agents out of UMass.

Cox rushed for a team-high 715 yards and five touchdowns on 198 carries last year. He had strong performances at a regional combine and UMass pro day.

Cox said being drafted was still sinking in. “I still feel like I’m in college. It hasn’t really hit me,” Cox said. “ I still feel the same as I did yesterday. I just can’t wait to get there and get to work.”

MILHIM, SPELLER SIGN — Two players who blocked for Cox last season will be in NFL camps as well. Shortly after the draft ended, Nick Speller signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Stephane Milhim signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars as undrafted free agents.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.

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