UPDATE: SWAC players sign NFL free agent contracts
DALLAS, TX – While no Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) football players were selected in this year’s NFL Draft, pro teams were still searching for diamonds in the rough who may have been overlooked.
Fresh and anew with opportunity, seven SWAC alumni inked NFL free agent contracts immediately following the 83rd NFL Draft that took place from April 26-28 at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, TX.
Grambling State, who claimed this year’s SWAC Championship and represented the conference during the Celebration Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta to kick off bowl season, had a league-high three players sign contracts with NFL teams. Among them were running back Martez Carter, defensive back Montrel Meander and offensive lineman Trent Scott.
Alcorn State, who won the SWAC East Division, saw the Baltimore Ravens sign running back De’Lance Turner.
Southern University defensive back Danny Johnson also will still get a chance to live his dream.
The East Feliciana Parish native signed with the Washington Redskins as a free agent on Saturday.
He is scheduled to make his debut at rookie minicamp May 11-13.
Johnson was second on the team in tackles with 55 (43 solo) to go with a team-high three interceptions, 12 pass break ups.
Joining Johnson on the Redskins for an opportunity will be Carter.
Carter worked the phones all afternoon and as soon as the final selection was made, the Monroe, La. native agreed to a free agent deal with the Redskins. Also, as that final selection was being made, Meander agreed to a free agent deal to head north to the Cleveland Browns. Lastly, Scott quietly made his move on the free agent circuit as he will head west to the Los Angeles Chargers.
"We're very excited about the opportunity for these players," Grambling State head coach Broderick Fobbs said. "At the end of the day, you get the opportunity, but it's up to you to make sure that you do what you're supposed to do to learn the offense, learn the plays, and be ready to go, because opportunities are limited and it's up to player to go in and do what they need to do to so that they can gain an advantage to also get confidence from that coach in order to get more plays. So, as long as they go in and do that and do things the right way, and do things the Tiger way, they should have a chance."
Last season, Carter rushed for 854 yards on 167 carries and 10 scores, including a season-long 76-yard touchdown run in the State Fair Classic against Prairie View A&M. He caught 33 balls out of the backfield for 449 yards and a pair of scores. He also accounted for 72 points in the 13 games played. He had numerous honors, including being named to the All-SWAC postseason and preseason First Teams, and was selected a BOXTOROW All-American honorable mention.
For his collegiate career, Carter rushed for 2,721 yards on 401 carries and averaged 6.78 yards a carry and 71.6 yards per game. He scored 30 rushing touchdowns and added a career-long 90-yard score against California in 2015. In addition to the ground game, Carter caught 75 passes out of the backfield for 940 yards and nine touchdowns.
"My favorite part of the draft experience was having the opportunity to get better and being able to showcase my talent to the coaches," Carter said.
Meander turned his Pro Day into an opportunity to play for an NFL Franchise that went winless last season.
The University of Texas transfer played in all 13 games last season in helping Grambling State capture its second straight SWAC championship. He registered 49 tackles, including 30 solo stops. He recorded three tackles for a loss of 19 yards and four passes defended. The Amarillo, Texas native also finished with a pair of interceptions.
"I know with my size, I carry a lot of speed," Meander said. "Going in, I know that I will be looking at a lot of special teams. I am prepared for wherever they want to put me. I am prepared to learn any new position. I know that I will be very helpful and I will contribute a lot to that team."
Last season, Scott had a 90-percent grade and registered 35 pancakes, with 29 knock downs in helping Grambling State capture its second straight SWAC championship. He didn't allow a sack all season and only allowed three during his four-year collegiate career.
Scott received numerous honors in the postseason, including All-SWAC First Team, American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) FCS Coaches' All-American Second Team and BOXTOROW All-American.
"When I started my training, I was about 318 pounds," Scott said. "I was carrying a lot of body fat. It was key for me to get more flexible and drop some of the weight. After I did that, the key was constantly working on my footwork and my position."
--Courtesy of Grambling State Sports Information
Turner signs with Ravens
Standout running back De'Lance Turner from the Alcorn State University football program signed as an undrafted free agent in the National Football League (NFL) with the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday, according to 3XL Sports Management.
"I'm just taking it all in right now and it's still hard to believe that I made it this far. I am honored to be able to get my foot in the door, but I'm nowhere near satisfied," Turner said. "I want to go in with my head down, play hard, work my way up the roster and just ball out. My goal is to not only be a starter, but also help the team win championships."
Turner rushed for 1,357 yards in 2017 which was the second-most in the FCS. It broke a single-season school record of 1,286 set by Rodney Thomas in 1998. Turner also finished second in the country in yards per carry (7.54) and sixth in all-purpose yards per game (146.67).
The McLain, Mississippi product went on to earn FCS All-America Third-Team recognition, announced by the Associated Press. He was also an All-Conference First-Team selection and a two-time SWAC Offensive Player of the Week winner.
Turner ended his career ranked fifth all-time in school history in rushing yards with 2,121 after three seasons. He holds the longest run in school history with an 88-yarder in the season-opener against Miles College. Turner rushed for a career-high 272 yards against Southern which was the second-most in school history in a single game.
Turner helped Alcorn earn a No. 3 ranking in the final 2017 HBCU Poll. The Braves won the SWAC East Division every year he was on the team.
Alcorn has had 52 student-athletes play in the NFL. The most recent was Emmanuel Arceneaux in 2011.
--Alcorn State Sports Information
Prairie View A&M’s Hodge, Simmons sign deals
PRAIRIE VIEW, Texas – Former Prairie View A&M University wide receivers KhaDarel Hodge and Joshua Simmons will look to take the next step in their careers as they have earned free agent contracts in the National Football League.
Hodge will sign with the Los Angeles Rams, while Simmons will join the Buffalo Bills.
Hodge (6-2, 200; R-Sr., D’Lo Miss.) earned first-team All-SWAC honors, as well as Black College All-America accolades from both BOXTOROW and SBN/Power News Radio Network. Hodge was third in the SWAC in both receptions (48) and receiving yards (844), second in yards per catch (17.6) and first in touchdown receptions (12). In his last seven games, he caught 39 passes for 746 yards and 11 touchdowns, posting three 100-yard receiving games and four multi-TD receiving games. Hodge broke Otis Taylor’s 53-year old single-game receiving yards school record with 232 yards on eight receptions and three touchdowns vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 11. In his three-year career, Hodge caught 104 passes for 1797 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Simmons (5-11, 165; R-Sr., Houston, Texas) was third on the team in both receptions (32) and receiving yards (456) and was tied for fourth in touchdowns (two), while also averaging 21.0 yards on six kickoff returns in 2017. He set career highs in receptions (11) and receiving yards (152) with one touchdown at Texas Southern in his final game as a Panther on Nov. 25. In his two-year career, he caught 52 passes for 696 yards and four touchdowns. He also had a 93-yard kickoff return for touchdown at Rice in 2016, when Simmons was the SWAC’s Newcomer of the Year.
-Prairie View A&M Sports Information