6 W&M Players Pursue NFL Dreams (and 3 Abroad!)

You might not know this, but William & Mary currently has six, yes six, players either on NFL rosters or competing to get on an NFL roster. Three of these players were drafted, and three others are trying to make it as undrafted free agents. Let’s also not soon forget that W&M boasts two, count ’em, two NFL Head Coaches. By the way, both of these coaches (Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills & Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers) led their teams to the playoffs this past season.

W&M may be a small school, but there’s no denying its knack for churning out NFL talent, both on the field and in coaching. Much of this can be directly correlated to the tutelage of current Head Coach Jimmye Laycock, who has mentored every single one of the names you’ll see in this article, including McDermott and Tomlin; we’d be remiss if we didn’t emphasize his role in all of this success, noting that the legend himself will enter his 39th season at the helm for W&M this season. Incredible stuff.


Deandre Houston-Carson

DHC was known for his big hits at W&M. Injuries have held him back, but he’s locked and loaded for the 2018 NFL season. [photo via 247 Sports]
Former W&M safety and fan-favorite Deandre Houston-Carson (DHC) is currently entering his third season with the Chicago Bears after being drafted by the team in the 6th round of the 2016 NFL draft. Slowly becoming an NFL vet, Houston-Carson has improved each season he’s been in Chicago. In his first year, DHC appeared in 8 games, finishing with just two tackles on the season. Last year, however, DHC appeared in 11 games, adding 10 tackles and 2 forced fumbles. You might be thinking to yourself — big whoop, that’s not a lot of tackles (but don’t ignore the forced fumbles). Let’s not forget that this is the NFL; most players don’t provide a large impact right away. Showing coaches that you’re on an upward trajectory, even with incremental improvements at first, is a big deal for players fighting to stay on a roster from year to year.

As W&M fans will fondly remember, DHC has the ability to make plays on special teams, block punts, and deliver clutch tackles. If he can establish himself as a high impact special teams player this season, he can certainly make a living in the NFL for many years to come (perhaps breaking in as a safety down the road). Injuries have set him back so far in his professional career, but a healthy DHC could be absolutely lethal on an NFL field. The Bears know that, and it’s why they’ve kept him on the roster as long as they have. We expect big things out of our guy DHC this season in Chicago.

 
Tre McBride

Tre McBride took the NFL world by storm after he destroyed the NFL Combine. To most pundits’ surprise, he slid all the way down to the Tennessee Titans in the 7th round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Ever since then, it feels like it has been an uphill battle for McBride, and it also really does seem like he has not yet been given a fair chance to succeed in the NFL. At a certain point, we suppose that’s the hard knocks life of an NFL player; but it sure is frustrating to watch a talented player, whom we know can contribute to teams in this league, struggle to find his niche.

To elaborate on our point that Tre hasn’t yet been given a fair chance: when playing with the Chicago Bears last season, McBride had his best season yet, playing in 8 games and starting in 3 (including one on Monday Night Football). In those games, he had 8 catches for 144 yards. One game in particular, against the powerhouse New Orleans Saints in Week 8, McBride finished with 3 catches for 92 yards — in a game where QB Mitchell Trubisky had just 162 yards passing total no less. Against the playoff-bound Saints, McBride recorded catches of 45, 25, and 22 yards. Earlier in the season, during the aforementioned Monday Night Football game against a stalwart Minnesota Vikings defense, McBride hauled in an 18-yard pass. However, that was the only target he would see, as rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky struggled that night, as he largely did all season. It would be an understatement to say that Trubisky didn’t help McBride (or the Bears) much last season. Toward the end of the year, as Tre (seemingly randomly) saw his playing time dwindle, and as the Bears’ offense struggled, he was released.

Tre McBride [stats via nfl.com]
Currently, McBride finds himself as a member of the New York Jets. Currently rebuilding, the Jets have 13 WRs on their roster. Is it just us, or does McBride always seem to be picked up on a team with too many WRs (first with Tennessee and now with the Jets)? Naturally, the number of WRs will be significantly trimmed before the 53-man roster is finalized. But as he has done throughout his professional career, McBride will look to prove himself throughout OTAs and summer camp. He’s done it before, and we have no doubt he will do it again on a team, whether with the Jets or another, this season.


B.W. Webb

Former W&M standout, cornerback B.W. Webb, recently signed a one-year deal with the New York Giants this offseason. The former 2013 4th round pick of the Dallas Cowboys will look to make a name for himself on the Giants this season, as he now finds himself as the most seasoned W&M football player in the NFL.

After signing with the G-Men, ESPN had this to say about Webb:

“The veteran cornerback is on his sixth team in six years. He did not appear in a game while with the Cleveland Browns last season. He does have some playing experience with 49 career games under his belt. Webb is a depth signing. He could make the team as a fourth or fifth cornerback. The Giants need bodies at that position after releasing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie earlier this month and questions still remain about Eli Apple after a tumultuous and troubling 2017 season. So far the Giants have signed Webb, Teddy Williams and Curtis Riley. Consider it bargain/crap-shoot shopping.

As you can glean from the stats below, Webb has definitely experienced some success in the NFL. His best season was in 2016 with the Saints, where Webb appeared in 14 games, finishing the season with 1 interception (in the crunch time of the 3rd quarter on future first ballot Hall of Famer Drew Brees) and 11 passes defensed. That year proved to NFL coaches and GMs that Webb can certainly make an impact in this league if given the chance. Now with the Giants, who as noted are in need of CB depth, Webb has a chance to make the final 53-man roster.

B.W. Webb [stats via nfl.com]

 

Luke Rhodes

Rhodes is the starting long snapper for the Colts, which means that he’s the long snapper for one of the NFL’s all time great kickers, Adam Vinatieri [photo via colts.com]
Luke Rhodes, a former inside linebacker for the Tribe, has found himself converted to a long snapper in the NFL — and boy has it paid off. In his rookie season with the Colts in 2016, Luke was an ILB, and appeared in 4 games. It didn’t take long before the Colts’ coaching staff noticed Rhodes’ impact as a special teamer that season, strongly considering whether or not he could be a viable candidate for long snapper. An interesting fact is that long snapping is something that Rhodes did as a two-way star back in high school in Hollidaysburg, PA. Who ever said that long snapping can’t pay the bills?

Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano said about Rhodes before the switch, “He’s done a great job at the linebacker spot. But as a special teamer, he’s phenomenal. And he’s growing into a really good long-snapper and short-snapper. We’re going to take a good, hard look at him at that spot.”

Rhodes played at the long snapper spot in the 2017 preseason before beating out rookie Thomas Hennessy as Matt Overton’s successor at the position. Now finding himself contributing at a low-impact position such as long snapper, Rhodes will likely have a very long career in the NFL; we all fondly remember W&M alum Mike Leach‘s 15-year career, and we expect Rhodes to replicate that success throughout his time in the NFL.


Chris Durant

This past year, long-time W&M offensive tackle Chris Durant was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Los Angeles Chargers. As W&M fans might recall, Durant was a four-year starter for W&M at Left Tackle. His career spanned 36 career starts, as Durant finished as a three-time third team All-CAA selection.

The Chargers SB Nation page profiled Durant, who stands at 6’4″ 310 pounds, saying “he possesses the prototypical size for a blindside protector and the necessary experience you want at such an important position.”

The article went on to say:

“After watching just a handful of plays into this game, it was incredible how polished Durant was fundamentally to the point that I couldn’t believe he wasn’t a drafted player. He has excellent quickness in his kick-slide, keeps his feet very active in pass protection, and is constantly trying to win the battle for inside hand-position.

In the run game, he absolutely springs off the line which is evident as he consistently reaches inside shades and 3-techs. Durant also seems adept at using leverage to find productivity in the run game which makes up for any shortcomings he may have in the strength department.

After having watched the rest of the UDFA offensive linemen, I can say with certainty that Durant is the best of the bunch and is one of my favorite picks to make the final 53-man roster.”

Here’s to hoping that the big man finds a home in LA! He’ll certainly be a Green and Gold player to watch for this offseason.


Connor Hilland

After his senior season, four year starter left guard Connor Hilland signed an NFL Rookie Contract with the Miami Dolphins. Hilland, playing alongside Kevin Durant, was a brute force on the line the past four seasons with the Tribe, holding his own against FBS competition such as NC State and Virginia Tech. His versatility in playing both guard and center will hopefully be valuable to the Dolphins as his career progresses. It remains to be seen if he will make the roster, but we think that he has as good a shot as any.


Bonus: Adrian Tracy & Jerome Couplin III

W&M alums Adrian Tracy and Jerome Couplin III are playing alongside QB Johnny Manziel with the Hamilton Tiger Cats.

Both W&M alums Adrian Tracy and Jerome Couplin III are currently playing in Canada, on the Hamilton Tiger Cats. If that name sounds familiar to you, you probably have an unhealthy obsession with sports (as we at the W&M Sports Blog also have). The reason the name should sound familiar to you is because Johnny Manziel recently signed with the Hamilton Tiger Cats. Who would have thought two W&M alums would be playing alongside Johnny Manziel in the Canadian Football League, eh? (had to do it)


Double Bonus: Steve Cluley

W&M alum Steve Cluley signed with the Frankfurt Universe of the German Football League. Under center, Cluley took the league by storm before going down with an injury. In his time at QB for the Universe, Steve not only showed his arm, but also showed everyone in Germany his ability to run the ball (as evidenced by the above video). He’ll be back next season and ready to go, but for now, it’s time to get his body ready for next season in Deutschland. 


Triple Bonus: Tyler Claytor

Didn’t think we could dig this deep, did you? The W&M Sports Blog knows no boundaries. Former Tribe defensive lineman Tyler Claytor recently caught on with an Arena Pro Football team, the Richmond Rough Riders. Claytor recently finished with a team high 6 tackles (and 2 sacks) on a June 2nd game vs. the High Country Grizzlies. You may have actually heard of a teammate of Claytor’s, wide receiver Robert Meachem, who formerly played with the New Orleans Saints.

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