FOUR W&M Players Ink NFL Deals!

Tyler Claytor (Chicago Bears), DeAndre Houston-Carson (Chicago Bears), Christian Reeves (Kansas City Chiefs), and Luke Rhodes (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) have all either been drafted or have earned NFL Camp Invites. [photos: tribeathletics.com]
Tyler Claytor (Chicago Bears), DeAndre Houston-Carson (Chicago Bears), Christian Reeves (Kansas City Chiefs), and Luke Rhodes (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) have all either been drafted or have earned NFL Camp Invites. [photos: tribeathletics.com]
There must be something in that Williamsburg water. As of this past week, William and Mary has sent a staggering FOUR players from last season’s  football squad to NFL teams. One was drafted, another signed a training camp deal, and others have garnered rookie mini camp invites. Any way you look at it, few programs in the FCS (and FBS, for that matter) produce that many NFL signees in one year. It truly is a great time to be a Tribe fan!

However, this is only the beginning. These Green and Gold alums have a long way to go, but they have all taken the all-important first step of getting the foot in the door–hard enough in itself. Our boys will have to prove themselves both on and off the field in the months to come, and play football at the highest level to make the final cut. Which NFL teams did they land on? What will they have to do to make it? Let’s check it out! Roll Tribe.

DeAndre Houston-Carson

The video above gives us chills. As the top W&M NFL prospect this year, DeAndre was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the 6th round of the NFL Draft (185th overall). While it was a bit of a slide for DeAndre (we and many other pundits expected him to be drafted no later than the 5th round), we at the WMSB were happy to hear his name called on draft day. After a storied career at William and Mary, DHC will continue the legacy of Tribe defensive backs in the NFL–joining the ranks of recent alums, B.W. Webb and Jerome Couplin III.

In analyzing the pick: the Bears held a hefty 9 NFL Draft selections this year, and used several of them to draft defensive players, drafting 3 defensive backs. Among those defensive backs were CB Deiondre’ Hall (Northern Iowa), SS Deon Bush (U of Miami), and your very own, FS DeAndre Houston-Carson. Since the other two DBs drafted do not play free safety, DeAndre shouldn’t see much competition from drafted players for the backup FS position.

His main competition will come from Bears safety Omar Bolden, a four year veteran who played for the Broncos before signing with the Bears in the offseason. Bolden looks to compete with DeAndre Houston-Carson for the backup FS position behind starter Adrian Amos. Perhaps working on DeAndre’s favor is the fact that Bolden signed only a one year deal with the Bears, so if he does not perform in 2016, DeAndre may have a chance to catapult up the depth chart.

DHC is also lucky in that he will join a Bears secondary that ranked 4th overall in the league a year ago. He will have ample opportunity to learn from veterans like Tracy Porter, as well as fellow NFL rookies like Virginia Tech grad and starter Kyle Fuller. In fact, Fuller played in a game against Houston-Carson back in 2014 when the Tribe visited the Hokies, falling 34-9 in the season opener. Funny how things work out.

When it’s all said and done, we know DeAndre won’t disappoint. With 9 blocked kicks in his career, we see DeAndre contributing immediately for the Bears on special teams, with the potential to become a backup or starter down the road–perhaps in the next two to three seasons. Bears General Manager Ryan Pace even chimed in on DeAndre, exclaiming, “He’s another versatile player. He can play corner, he can play safety. We see him as a safety right now. He’s a very physical player; hits with explosiveness. He’s a very good special-teams player as well. This is a guy [special-teams coordinator] Jeff Rodgers is fired up about.” And he should be.

After digging a little deeper, it’s apparent that “Da Bears” see DeAndre as a player who will immediately contribute on special teams and play safety (rather than cornerback), with the thought that he might develop into a starter down the road. We for one are happy that DHC will also get to wear his patented #36 for the Bears. Is it time to get a Bears jersey?

Luke Rhodes 

While Luke Rhodes went undrafted, he became a hot commodity as an Undrafted Free Agent immediately following the close of the NFL Draft. It’s safe to say more than one NFL team was calling his phone. Rhodes, a two-time team captain, three-time first-team All-CAA, and four-time all-conference linebacker during his years at William & Mary was ready to take the next step.

In his collegiate career, he garnered 341 tackles, 20 tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks. He had an incredible pro day, completing an eye-popping 29 reps of the 225-pound bench press, and ran a 4.64 second 40-yard dash. At one point in the season, Rhodes was the lone FCS player up for the Butkus award, which is annually given to the nation’s top linebacker. The rest of the players on the list were from the FBS ranks.

Ultimately, Rhodes decided to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and we LOVE the fit. Guess who is the linebackers coach for the Bucs? It’s none other than Mark Duffner, who is a WILLIAM & MARY GRAD! He played football for the Green and Gold from 1972-74 just before the Jimmye Laycock era, under Head Coach Jim Root. Who would have known? Gotta love that Tribe Pride in the NFL!

Duffner, a former Tribe defensive end, took a liking to Rhodes early on. Rhodes said as much when he stated, “The Tampa Bay linebackers’ coach (Mark Duffner) has been calling me.  He played at William & Mary.  He has probably called me once a week.” Clearly, Duffner wanted to keep that Tribe connection going strong in the NFL, and he certainly isn’t scared of the FCS label.

If Rhodes makes the team, then he not only will have an “in” with the linebackers coach, but he will also learn from one of the best in the business, starting Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David. Beyond the starters of the Bucs (Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander, and Daryl Smith), all of the backup positions are up for grabs.

The biggest challenges for Rhodes in making the roster look to be Jeremiah George, Josh Keyes, and Adarious Glanton. George was the only one who appears safe, as he had a successful year on special teams last season. In addition to these three returning players, Tampa Bay brought in three more rookies that Rhodes will have to beat out, including their 6th round pick and former Oklahoma Sooner, Devante Bond. It will certainly be an uphill battle for Rhodes. However, with his work ethic and a Tribe connection, he has a serious shot to get the job done. GO LUKE!

Tyler Claytor

Tyler Claytor had a successful senior campaign for the Tribe, earning a 1st team all-CAA selection after finishing the season with 4.5 sacks, 9 TFL, 37 tackles, and four blocked kicks. He also turned in a solid Pro Day, finishing with 31 bench press reps of 225 pounds, a 32″ vertical leap, a 9 foot 11 inch broad jump, and a 5.05 40-yard dash time.

TYLER CLAYTOR NFL

Much like Jasper Coleman last season, Claytor is an imposing defensive tackle standing at 6’3″ 295 pounds. While he is not as big as Coleman, he provides more of a threat in getting to the quarterback. Claytor is a player with a high motor and a relentless desire to succeed. And let’s not forget, like fellow senior DeAndre Houston-Carson, Claytor has a knack for blocking kicks on special teams.

We hope that Claytor proves himself in the Bears minicamp next week, and makes it to training camp (like Coleman did). It will be quite a sight to have two William and Mary rookies at the Bears minicamp. One Tribe.

Christian Reeves

Last but not least, we have Tribe wide receiver Christian Reeves, inking a rookie camp deal with the Kansas City Chiefs! Tribe fans will remember Reeves as the receiver who transferred to W&M from Virginia Tech, coming on in his Sophomore season. Reeves would finish his collegiate career as a three-year player for the Tribe, and an every-game starter his senior year. He would develop into a consistent option for quarterback Steve Cluley over the last couple seasons, proving himself as one of the biggest and tallest receivers on the team.

reeves chiefs

His senior season, Reeves earned a third-team All-CAA selection. He started all nine games he appeared in, but missed the last four due to injury. Reeves would finish with 22 catches for 424 yards and two touchdowns–both of his TDs coming on plays longer than 50 yards. Reeves definitely showed glimpses of potential, as he turned in his best collegiate game against a strong #14/16 Villanova, hauling in 4 catches for 126 yards and a 53-yard touchdown.

Reeves stands at a stout 6’4″ 215 pounds– prototypical size for a receiver, which is what we think NFL teams really like about him. It also doesn’t hurt that he earned CAA Academic All-Conference Team distinctions his junior and senior years. No big deal. Again, this will be an uphill battle for Reeves, as he likely faces the steepest hill of all Tribe players this year. But we believe he may just surprise us all.

Conclusion

In the end, it’s been a wild ride for W&M football this offseason. From the incredible upgrades to Zable Stadium to FOUR players placed in the NFL. Wow. It’ll be hard to top. Enjoy it while you can Tribe fans, root on our boys, get ready for some Fall ball, and
LET’S GO TRIBE!!!

 

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