DAVIE, Fla. -- Ryan Tannehill beamed as he stood on the stage at the NFL draft in New York, holding a Miami Dolphins jersey with uniform No. 1, a reflection of his lofty status as a first-round pick.
The Dolphins finally made the quarterback position their top draft priority, taking Texas A&M's Tannehill with the eighth overall choice Thursday. He became the first quarterback selected in the opening round by the team since 1983, when they landed Dan Marino.
Tannehill was widely projected to be the Dolphins' choice, but he said he didn't know what to expect.
"I was in the dark," he said. "I was so excited to see the Florida area code pop up on the phone."
Dolphins fans clamored for a quarterback, and owner Stephen Ross supported the investment of a first-round pick in a passer.
"You have your chances of getting a franchise quarterback in the first round," Ross said. "I always said, once we can identify a franchise quarterback, let's go get him."
Tannehill started just 19 games in college after switching from receiver to quarterback, and last year, he threw 15 interceptions while going just 1-4 against Top 25 teams. But the 6-foot-4, 222-pound Tannehill received favorable reviews from his college coach, Mike Sherman, the Dolphins' new offensive coordinator.
General manager Jeff Ireland said that while Tannehill lacks experience, his size, arm strength, toughness, intelligence and overall athletic ability make him a top prospect.
"I didn't take him with the eighth pick in the draft for him to be a backup quarterback," Ireland said.
Since Marino retired following the 1999 season, the Dolphins have started 16 quarterbacks, the most in the NFL. They unsuccessfully courted Peyton Manning last month, but Ireland said drafting Tannehill has long been part of the Dolphins' offseason strategy.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press