I'm a little peculiar in that I try to keep track of UCLA players once they get to the next level of sports. This is a fairly simple process in the NBA (max of 15 guys on a roster, non-draft picks rarely if ever make rosters), but in the National Football League it can get a little tiresome. 32 teams, 53 players on each roster, practice squads. It is a lot to keep track of.
So in honor of those Bruins representing the program and school at the highest level, I put together this post of former players trying to make it in the NFL. These are in no particular order and I tried to put together a blurb about each guy.
Here is the list:
Jeff Locke, P, Minnesota Vikings
Once Chris Kluwe was cut, Locke became an absolute lock to be the Vikings punter this season and in the foreseeable future. You don't draft a punter unless you plan on keeping him for a while. By most accounts, he is doing well.
Baca was a question mark on whether or not he'd make the Vikings roster, but he ended up sticking with the squad. He's versatile enough to play guard and center in the NFL and maybe tackle in an emergency. Probably not skilled enough to start anywhere, but good enough to be a backup. While you're watch Adrian Peterson, take a glance to see if #60 is leading the way.
First round draft pick on a team with struggles on the defensive line is clearly a lock to be a starter for the Packers. He's been dealing with an ankle injury during the preseason, but expect to see him out on the field against the 49ers in Week One.
Johnathan Franklin, RB, Green Bay Packers
Franklin hasn't impressed local writers or Packers' fans in fall camp thus far. His roster spot apparently wasn't an automatic. He did play better in the Packers' final preseason game, but it has been a disappointing start to a career for the Mayor. With last year's starter DeJuan Harris out for the season, I don't see any way Franklin gets waived this year, but his status is something to keep an eye on.
Rahim Moore, S, Denver Broncos
The Bronco fans I know tend to have very strong opinions of Rahim after his extremely high profile miscue in theAFC Championship Game last season. In my opinion, he's received far too much criticism based on that play because Champ Bailey had been roasted by Torrey Smith the entire game and Moore simply mistimed a very easy jump. It'll be tough to live that down, but Moore is still the starting FS on a good team and defense in the NFL.
He did play very well on Thursday against the Ravens with a notable hit on Dallas Clark over the middle.
I've been trying to keep up with every Bruin in the league this offseason and there is almost literally nothing in print about Damien Holmes. The first news I saw was of Holmes getting cut in the round of 53. I'm impressed as hell that he made it that far after only playing linebacker for one season. Hopefully Holmes keeps at it and works his way into a roster spot eventually.
Aaron Hester, CB, Denver Broncos
Aaron Hester got cut in the round of 53. I saw quite a bit of the Broncos games in the preseason (yes, I am a little football crazy) games that replay on NFL Network and Hester got beat a ton. He still looks like a star every once in a while, but there is no way you can justify giving him a roster spot with how often he gets beat 1-on-1. There is some talk about him as a practice squad guy purely because of his frame/athleticism, but I wouldn't be shocked to not hear his name again in the NFL.
Was cut on Saturday and named to the practice squad on Sunday. Colts will try to turn Price's NFL talent level into a consistent player.
Justin Hickman, OLB, Indianapolis Colts
Hickman had spent a few years dominating the CFL before landing with the Colts as an outside linebacker last season. The move from defensive end to outside backer suited Hickman and he was set to be the Colts' starter at one of the spots. Unfortunately, he got rolled up on in a preseason game and will miss the 2013 season with a serious foot injury and was placed on IR. Look for Hickman to be back on the field for Indianapolis in 2014.
Coleman is the most senior Bruin in the NFL, starting his 12th season. Unfortunately, Coleman is on the Injured Reserve for the Saints.
Chandler is an interesting story. After spending almost his entire career at UCLA changing positions, he has ended up doing the same thing in the NFL. He was an undrafted free agent, but made the Panthers' practice squad. He got called up to the NFL after a few injuries to Carolina's defense and played well in a rotational role. This offseason however, he was moved to offensive tackle to accommodate Carolina's losses. He made the roster as a backup, but is in a tenuous position. As of now, he is on the 53-man, but he'll be the first lineman out if another is signed.
Paulsen signed a three year deal with the Redskins this spring and is their 2nd TE. He's worked himself into a nice NFL career, playing in 38 games the last three years.
Kai Forbath, K, Washington Redskins
Forbath made 17 of his first 18 FG to start his NFL career, which is an NFL record start. He'll be kicking in the NFL for a long time. He's also the kicker on every one of my fantasy football teams for anyone who cares (anticipating crickets).
Yount got a 5 year extension this month, so his future in the NFL is probably in the least doubt of any Bruin outside of Forbath.
McDermott is the sure thing starter for the 49ers after winning the long snapping job in camp. WIth two punters, a kicker, two long snappers and a special team guy with 2 Pro Bowl selections, UCLA has to be among the leaders in special teams players in the NFL. Look for McDermott to snap for a long time.
Lockett didn't make it through the cuts down to 75 players for the Jets. Lockett has bounced around for the last three season. He was an undrafted free agent that has been on the Browns for a year, spent the last two seasons bouncing between the Patriots practice squad and active roster and made it onto the Jets this year. He didn't see any snaps in a preseason game and it is tough to see him carving out a spot on someone's roster.
Kahlil Bell, RB, New York Jets
On cutdown Saturday, things looked great for Bell. He had made the final 53 man roster after leading the NFL in rushing touchdowns in the preseason. Unfortunately, the final cut day is also the first day of waiver claims for cut players. The Jets brought in Packers castoff Alex Green and that was it for Bell's roster spot. The NFL is fickle, always remember that.
Slater might sneakily be the Bruins' most high profile NFL player. He's been a Pro Bowl selection the past two seasons as a special teams player and is a captain on the team the national media focuses on more than any other. He may end up with a slightly bigger offensive role this season because the Patriots let basically every WR and TE go (or had them end up charged with murder). After a fairly nondescript collegiate career, Slater has turned into an indispensable NFL player.
Dye caught the axe in his third season in the NFL, losing out on the Bengals' final safety spot to Taylor Mays.
MJD is back from a foot injury that basically made him a nonfactor in 2012. The Jaguars have almost no one else behind him at running back, so he'll get a ton of touches if he is healthy. He is also a free agent this upcoming season and as an aging running back, he has to perform at a high level or else he isn't going to get another contract. It might not be fun, but keep an eye on Drew if the Jaguars pop up on NFL Redzone.
Marcedes Lewis, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars
Lewis has been a capable tight end since being drafted. Has he lived up to the Mackey Award winning expectations? No. But he's had a lengthy and successful career.
Ayers struggled a little as a rookie, but looked like an NFL pass rusher in 2012 registering 6 sacks and also led the TItans in tackles. He seems to be finally realizing the terrifying amount of talent he has worked for and been gifted with. If the Titans weren't so uninteresting, he would get a lot more notoriety.
Alterraun Verner, CB, Tennessee Titans
Verner did well in the preseason, regaining his starting role in Tennessee. He's entering his fourth year with the team and seems like a player that will be in the league for quite a few more years.
Kluwe was cut after losing a battle for the starting punter job in Oakland. In the NFL, I think that the off-field stuff worked against Kluwe, even if I agree with a lot of what he has done. In such a high-profile business, teams don't want any extra media attention placed on the organization by any players, much less special teams guys.
Justin Medlock, K, Oakland Raiders
This preseason was a lose-lose situation for Medlock, who was with the Panthers last season. With Sebastian Janikowski firmly entrenched in Oakland, it would have been near impossible for Medlock to carve out a roster spot. I think he'll end up getting a job this season mainly because of the way that NFL kickers, punters and long snappers typically get employed. Some kicker will struggle early on, they'll bring in Medlock to try out and he'll take over the gig.
Michael Harris, OT, San Diego Chargers
Harris was thrown into an absurdly difficult situation last year, having to start at left tackle as an undrafted rookie. He held his own but obviously had some tough games. The Chargers tried to solidify their offensive line in the offseason, so an influx of talent has knocked Harris out of a starting role, but he is a capable backup at both spots and had no problem making San Diego's roster.
Bosworth looked to have won the last linebacker spot on the New York Giants in training camp, but ended up being one of the last players cut from their roster. Luckily for Bosworth, he was scooped up off waivers by the Dallas Cowboys and looks like he'll settle in as a special teams player and backup linebacker for Dallas.
Willis had a sparkling preseason in games, flashing big play ability and making some tough catches. His performance all-around wasn't quite enough for him to grab one of the last spots on the 53 man roster in Detroit as he was cut on Saturday.
Terrence Austin, WR, Detroit Lions
Austin was cut in the round of cuts to get the roster to 75 players. It's tough to see Austin making anyone else's roster, but kudos to him for making it through 2 full NFL seasons as a wideout after being underutilized as a Bruin.
Joseph Fauria, TE, Detroit Lions
In one of the biggest stories of the cut season in the NFL, Big Joe earned his way on to the Lions final roster. Fauria's redzone skillset and exceptional hands will likely result in him seeing some targets in the Lions offense (plus the Lions throw around 45 passes every game, so that'll help). If he can continue bulking up and improves into an average run blocker, Fauria could be in the NFL for quite some time.
Carter met his end on the Cardinals in the cuts down to the 53-man roster after spending the last two seasons in the defensive line rotation. After surprisingly being drafted in the sixth round in 2011, Carter bloomed into a decent NFL defensive lineman. Look for him to catch on with another team because capable defensive lineman are always in demand.
The oft-maligned Harkey actually has settled into a role in the NFL. He's a huge guy, so he profiled well as a blocking TE and earned a roster spot for the Rams as an undrafted free agent, actually playing in multiple games in 2012. He was getting a ton of reps in the preseason before suffering an injury that will keep him out for the early part of the season. His spot on the roster as the 3rd TE seems safe though.
My personal favorite story is that Coleman earned one of the last spots on perhaps the most talented roster in the NFL. As much as I hate to say it, I have to give props to Pete Carroll and his staff up there for working with Coleman for a couple of seasons on the practice squad. Hope to see him pop up in a few games this season on a very good football team.
So there they are. Your Bruins in the NFL. Just a guide to keep track of where UCLA is being represented on Sundays.