Three NEC Gridders Sign NFL Contracts Only Minutes after Draft Ends, Possibly More to Come

They weren’t one of the 253 whose names were announced at the podium in Radio City Music Hall, but they still received a phone call every Pop Warner player in America hopes to get someday.

Monmouth’s Jose Gumbs and Duquesne’s Connor Dixon both earned a chance to play at the next level.  The former hard-hitting defensive back and the tall, athletic receiver signed deals with National Football League clubs only minutes after the 2012 NFL Draft concluded on Saturday night in New York City.

Gumbs his headed to the Big Easy where he’ll attempt to make the New Orleans Saints 53-man roster,

“It means a lot to this program. But not only does it mean a lot to Monmouth, it means a lot to the Northeast Conference. It says that it’s a good conference athletically, and that guys do have the ability to play at the next level,” Gumbs told the Asbury Park Press earlier in the week, referring to the numerous looks he and other NEC players were receiving from NFL clubs.

While Gumbs heads south, Dixon is making the short trip from Pittsburgh’s Rooney Field to Heinz Field where he’ll get a shot at donning the Black & Yellow for his hometown Steelers.

Only minutes after Gumbs and Dixon signed their deals, it was announced that Wagner’s former all-NEC linebacker Julian Stanford would be joining them in an attempt to break into the NFL.  Stanford, a tremendous athlete who spent much of his career harassing opposing signal callers, signed an Undrafted Free Agent contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Standing at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds with good speed, Stanford can be a hidden gem for a team in search of a pass rusher with explosiveness off the edge.  The all-NEC first team selection logged 11.5 tackles for loss, including 5.0 quarterback sacks, and also made three interceptions as a senior.

Stanford also proved valuable on special teams at Wagner and could very well carve out a niche for himself in that area at the next level.

Meanwhile, Gumbs spent each of the past four seasons as Monmouth’s leading tackler.  One of the hardest hitters to come through West Long Branch, the strong safety earned three consecutive selections on the All-NEC First Team.  Gumbs impressed fellow Hawk Miles Austin in an offseason workout three summers ago, prompting the Pro Bowl receiver to laud him in the local press.

Dixon traveled an unconventional path prior to arriving at his current destination.  A backup quarterback at Michigan State as a freshman, the 6-foot-5 Pennsylvania native transferred home to the Keystone State in 2009. Starting under center in his first game at Duquesne, Dixon torched Bucknell for more than 400 yards and six touchdown passes.  It wasn’t long, however, until chronic shoulder problems forced the Harrisburg, PA product out to the flank where wound up thriving.  In 2011, Dixon made 40 receptions for a staggering 792 yards (19.8 ypc) and a program-record 16 touchdowns.

Connor Dixon’s Career Recap (courtesy DU Athletics Communications)

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