For the first time since 2011, the annual NFL draft took no Golden Eagles.
Record-setting quarterback Nick Mullens and other draft hopefuls – offensive linemen Cameron Tom and Will Freeman, defensive lineman Dylan Bradley and defensive back D’Nerius Antoine – were among the USM athletes to not hear their names called on Draft Day but were signed to free-agent deals.
However, one of the most beneficial parts of not being selected in the NFL draft is being able to choose where you spend your professional career. The athlete can choose the city they want to live in, the coaching staff they want to work under and also what depth chart they would like to infiltrate to show what they have.
Mullens decided to take his talents to the California Bay area and sign a free- agent deal with the San Francisco 49ers. Mullens may be able to gain playing time if he is able to showcase his skills early.
Another prominent member of the Golden Eagle family is former offensive lineman Cameron Tom, who decided to take his talents to New Orleans and join the Saints. Tom, a four-time All-Conference selection was considered likely to be drafted in the annual April draft. However, the offensive lineman has a pretty solid chance of making the roster if he carries on the same accolades as he did from college.
Other former Golden Eagles that signed free-agent deals include former defensive lineman Dylan Bradley, who inked his free agent deal with the Minnesota Vikings. Former Southern Miss linebacker Ja’Boree Poole, who was seen as a long shot to get into the NFL, is reportedly being invited for a three-day tryout with the New York Jets.
Lastly, multi-talented lineman Wil Freeman signed with the former NFC champions Atlanta Falcons; and former defensive back D’Nerius Antoine is headed north to be a part of the Chicago Bears rookie mini-camp.
For all of the former Golden Eagles, it will be an uphill climb to make their prospective rosters. But look no further than former Southern Miss running back Jalen Richard, who parlayed his free agent status to be a possible starting running back this season for the Oakland Raiders.
The NFL season kicks off September 7 when the Kansas City Chiefs will play the newly-hosted world champion New England Patriots.