National Football League teams held rookie mini-camps this past weekend, and afterwards the NEC’s presence in the pros swelled a bit.
With Monmouth safety Jose Gumbs (Saints), Duquesne receiver Connor Dixon (Steelers), and Wagner linebacker Julian Stanford (Jaguars) having signed Undrafted Free Agent contracts only hours after the 2012 Draft concluded, the number of former NEC gridders on NFL rosters continued to expand this off-season.
Now, Wagner defensive back Jeremiah Brown and defensive end Quintin Anderson have furthered that expansion.
Brown and Anderson both accepted invitations to rookie camps and made the most of their opportunities this past weekend. Following their performances, Brown signed a contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars, while Anderson put his John Hancock on the dotted line for the Buccaneers.
Both players have NFL size for their positions, but now must prove themselves worthy of a roster spot.
Brown, a 6-foot, 205-pound cornerback, is not afraid of contact. He made 41 solo tackles in 2011 to go along with five pass break-ups, two forced fumbles, and a blocked kick. The last item could prove rather beneficial for Brown as his special teams prowess may allow him to break into the NFL (remember Miles Austin, who we will mention again later, started his days in Dallas as a kick returner).
At 6-foot-5, 280 pounds, Anderson looks like a NFL defensive end. A converted offensive lineman, the Empire State product made a seamless transition to the defensive side for Wagner. Anderson came up with two game-changing fumble returns in his last two collegiate contests, both of which were wins for Wagner.
Dixon was in action at the Steelers’ mini-camp this past weekend and Teresa Varley from Steelers.com caught up with the first team all-NEC selection who made 16 touchdowns grabs in 2011.
“It helps to get acclimated better with just the rookies here. You aren’t thrown to the wolves with the veterans. It’s a chance for us to get acclimated to this game, how they coach and everything.”
Keep in mind, although the league has been around for just 16 seasons, the NEC has established a history of sending players to the highest level and having them perform admirably once they arrive.
Monmouth’s former all-NEC receiver Miles Austin has developed into a Pro Bowler and his best football may still be ahead of him.
Miles shared some of his story when NEC-TV’s John Schmeelk caught up with him at a hoops game this past season…
Former Robert Morris lineman Hank Fraley spent 10 years in the National Football League before being released by the Ram in September 2011. Haley started 123 games in the NFL, mostly at center, for the Eagles, Browns, and Rams.
Other than Austin, former Monmouth tight end John Nalbone is still active in the NFL, most recently signing with the Seahawks. Former Sacred Heart linebacker Jon Corto played three seasons with the Buffalo Bills before spending 2011 on IR and receiving his release three months ago.
Other than playing collegiately in the NEC, the one thing that Austin, Fraley, and Corto have in common is that they were all Undrafted Free Agent signees.
Now, Gumbs, Dixon, Stanford, Anderson, and Brown will look to follow that same path – from the NEC to a NFL 53-man roster. It’s a path that NEC gridders are coming to know well.