Temple linebacker Tyler Matakevich was on the phone with NFL teams that were looking to sign him as a potential free agent after the seventh round of the draft.

Then Matakevich got a call he said he had to take. It was from Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.

"It caught me off guard, and then I saw on the TV that Pittsburgh was picking next," Matakevich said on Monday in a phone interview.

Indeed, he was picked next, the 246th overall selection in a 253-player draft.

Matakevich is Temple's all-time leader with 493 tackles. He won the Chuck Bednarik Award and the Bronco Nagurski Trophy as the country's top defensive player.

And he was oh so close to being an undrafted free agent.

Just as Temple was his lone Division I offer coming out of Milford Academy prep school, the draft had an eerily similar feeling.

Instead of bashing the teams that didn't select him, however, Matakevich chose to praise the one that did.

"Everything happens for a reason, and this is just some adversity," he said. "I am grateful for the opportunity to hear my name called, and I will give my best to make sure they were happy that they drafted me."

He said he hasn't talked to Pittsburgh yet whether he will play inside or outside linebacker.

"All I know is I can't wait to get started," Matakevich said.

Matakevich was one of three Temple players drafted. Cornerback Tavon Young was a fourth-round pick of his home state Baltimore Ravens, 102nd overall. Defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis was a fifth-round choice of the Washington Redskins, No. 152.

"This is great," said Young, who had seven pass breakups this season. "I've been working for this my whole life."

Ioannidis was a first-team all-American Athletic Conference selection who had 11 1/2 tackles for loss.

"It was a great moment and something I will always cherish," he said the day after the draft.

Ioannidis refused to follow any mock drafts and wasn't really sure where he would be taken.

"I tried not to go into the draft with expectations because I knew the [defensive line] draft class was so stacked, and anything could happen," he said. "I just tried to stay patient."

Temple also had three players sign free-agent contracts. Wide receiver Robby Anderson and offensive lineman Kyle Friend signed with the New York Jets, and wide receiver Brandon Shippen signed with the Miami Dolphins.

Like Matakevich, Friend was on the phone with NFL teams during the seventh round discussing a potential free-agent contract.

"I think the Jets program is a good opportunity for me," said Friend, a first-team all-AAC center. "The coach [Todd Bowles] is a Temple guy, and I liked the whole idea of being with the Jets."

Temple reported that offensive lineman Shahbaz Ahmed (Atlanta Falcons), defensive lineman Hershey Walton (Seattle Seahawks) and safety Alex Wells (Jets) have mini-camp tryouts. NFL teams are permitted to invite players to their rookie camps for limited tryouts before offering them a contract.

"The Jets are giving me a chance, and I am grateful for that," Wells said. "I feel I was one of the top safeties in college football, and now I have to go out and prove myself."

Ahmed, a graduate of South Jersey's Paul VI High, said Pittsburgh, Minnesota and the New York Giants also contacted him about mini-camp tryouts.

Atlanta assistant offensive line coach Keith Carter was the first to contact him after the draft.

"I am just grateful for this opportunity and so happy for all my teammates," Ahmed said. "None of us would be here without our families and coach [Matt] Rhule and the coaching staff."

mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard