Category Archives: NEC Football

Proving They Belong: NEC Alumni Notes from NFL Preseason Week 1

Tom Kennedy (Photo: DSPics)


The NFL Preseason is full of opportunity and a number of NEC alumni are looking to take full advantage.

Following one full week of NFL Preseason games, here’s what we’ve noticed thus far…


JULIAN STANFORD (Wagner), Buffalo Bills

The NFL veteran, who broke into the league as an UDFA with Jacksonville in 2012, has continued his special teams prowess in his second season with the Bills. The former all-NEC linebacker, who is a member of every Bills’ special teams unit, opened Thursday’s preseason game against the Colts on kickoff coverage. He also saw second-string reps at middle linebacker, backing up Tremaine Edmunds.


GREG SENAT (Wagner), Baltimore Ravens

The 2018 NFL Draft pick has rebounded from an injury that landed him on IR for his rookie season. Fighting for a reserve spot on the Ravens’ 53-man roster, Senat has taken second-team reps at Left Tackle thus far during training camp. He played more snaps (58) than any other offensive player in the Ravens’ preseason opener against Jacksonville.



MARCELIS BRANCH (Robert Morris), Pittsburgh Steelers

The former all-NEC defensive back is back in the Steel City, attempting to crack a 53-man NFL roster. The Robert Morris product signed his initial NFL contract as an UDFA with the Atlanta Falcons in 2017. He spent the 2017 campaign as a member of Atlanta’s practice squad before being released just prior to the start of the 2018 regular season. This past winter, he signed a reserve contract with Pittsburgh, which currently lists Branch third amongst four strong safeties on its preseason roster. He was credited with three solo tackles and a pass break-up during the Steelers’ 30-28 triumph over Tampa Bay on August 9.



JERMAINE PONDER (Saint Francis), Pittsburgh Steelers

It was a whirlwind of a week for the UDFA rookie from SFU. After spending the spring and the first portion of training camp with the Cleveland Browns, Ponder was released on August 3 to make room for DT Tracy Sprinkle on the 90-man roster. Three days later, Ponder returned to work after agreeing to terms with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He made his NFL preseason debut on defense during the second half Friday’s game against Tampa Bay.



JACOB DOLEGALA (Central Connecticut), Cincinnati Bengals

Despite receiving rave reviews for his work during spring activities and the early stages of training camp, Central Connecticut’s all-time leading passer is still waiting to take his first snap in a NFL preseason game. Dolegala was one of four Bengals’ quarterbacks in uniform for a Preseason Week 1 date with the Chiefs, but he did not see action. Fellow Bengals’ rookie Ryan Finley, a fourth-round draft pick competing for a roster spot, saw a significant amount of playing time and averaged a pedestrian 6.05 yards per attempt to go along with one TD and one INT.



TOM KENNEDY (Bryant), Detroit Lions

He earned all-NEC honors in two sports (football, lacrosse) and now he’s trying to earn his way into the NFL. The former Bryant receiver went undrafted this past April, but impressed the right people as a tryout invitee to Lions’ rookie minicamp.  After signing in the spring, Kennedy’s athletic prowess has made for an intriguing storyline during training camp. With Detroit hosting New England in the preseason lid-lifter, Kennedy saw plenty of fourth-quarter action. He logged a 21-yard kickoff return early in the period and went on to produce a key play on the Lions’ lone scoring drive of the game. Converting a 3rd-and-13 from the Detroit 27-yard line, Kennedy beat his defender over the middle for a 29-yard reception. He was officially credited with one catch on two targets.



While Jake Carlock’s old team is moving up to the DI FCS ranks, Long Island University’s former star defender is making plenty of preseason noise for the New York Giants. Signed as an UDFA after two ultra-productive seasons as an LIU defensive back, Carlock enjoyed a memorable preseason debut. The safety/linebacker returned an interception 59 yards for a score in the Giants’ win over the Jets.










Trio of Top Selections Highlight #NECFB Representation on STATS Preseason All-America Teams

It’s a special start to the season for six Northeast Conference football seniors.

Headlined by a trio of First Team selections, the NEC found itself with a sextet of representatives when STATS Inc unveiled its FCS All-America Teams On Tuesday.

Duquesne’s AJ Hines, who will take aim at a fourth consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season, earned one of two running back slots on the All-America First Team.

After snagging All-America Second Team accolades following the 2018 campaign, Central Connecticut guard J’Von Brown and Wagner linebacker Cam Gill garnered First Team recognition heading into the 2019 season.

Saint Francis punt returner Nick Rinella landed on the Preseason All-America Second Team while Saint Francis linebacker Da’Jon Lee and Sacred Heart running back Jordan Meachum earned Third Team plaudits.



AJ Hines, RB (Duquesne) – First Team

The 2016 STATS Jerry Rice Award winner continued his march toward NEC immortality last fall, piling up more than 200 scrimmage yards in four regular season wins as well as a FCS playoff victory over CAA member Towson.


J’Von Brown, OG (Central Connecticut) – First Team

The 350-pounder protected the NEC’s least-sacked quarterback and started all 11 games at Left Guard for conference’s top-ranked offense, which averaged 6.8 yards per play and 5.9 yards per rush.


Cam Gill, LB (Wagner) – First Team

The NEC Defensive Player of the Year, who led the circuit with 13.5 sacks, made the second-most tackle-for-loss (24.0) in the FCS and logged at least 2.0 hits behind the line of scrimmage in seven different games including visits to Montana State and ACC member Syracuse.


Nick Rinella, PR (Saint Francis) – Second Team

The all-NEC safety proved dangerous on punt return, scoring two touchdowns and accounting for the second-highest average (12.3 ypr) amongst FCS leaders with at least 20 attempts.


Jordan Meachum, RB (Sacred Heart) – Third Team

Emerging as his team’s primary ball carrier, the veteran pieced together a breakout 2018 campaign that featured the fourth-highest rushing average (126.9 ypg) in the FCS and 11 touchdowns in 11 games.


Da’Jon Lee, LB (Saint Francis) – Third Team

The edge-rushing linebacker led the FCS with six forced fumbles and logged at least 1.0 TFL in 10 of 11 games, including a combined 6.0 TFL over two games against CAA teams (Richmond, Albany).

#NECPride Plentiful at #NECFB Social Media Day


Media days usually signify one thing: football season is upon us.  For one day, rivalries are set aside, hand shakes are extended, and players and coaches share a mutual love for the game. 

On Wednesday, July 24th, the Northeast Conference (NEC) held their fifth annual Social Media Day at Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. For some players, who had never been to New Jersey, let alone an NFL stadium, this was a chance for them to take a moment and see first hand what they’ve been dreaming about probably since they were young boys in their pee-wee leagues.  In true form, social media accounts for each school were alive and well for all the action.

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2019 #NECFB Social Media Day Lineup

Eighteen student-athletes will appear at the fifth annual #NECFB Social Media Day, which is set for Wednesday, July 24 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ.

During the program, hosts Paul Dottino and Jeff Feagles will speak with head coaches and players from all nine Northeast Conference football programs.

The league’s annual preseason coaches’ poll results along with a 27-member Preseason All-NEC Team will be unveiled during the live show. Viewers will also be the first to learn of the conference’s nine featured matchups that will be carried (exclusively) by ESPN3.

You can follow the #NECFB Social Media Day festivities LIVE via NEC Front Row and ESPN3 beginning at 11:00 am ET.

Find NECsports on Snapchat and Instagram for additional event coverage.

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