While checking FAU’s 2013 roster for a story about players from the last bowl eligible FAU team who are also members of the current team, I stumbled across an FAU trivia question – one that even the most ardent Owl supporters haven’t answered correctly.
That 2013 FAU defense, how many players eventually made an NFL regular season roster?
Take a moment to consider it, the advertisement below this question will help keep you from cheating.
The answer? Nine FAU defensive players from the 2013 drew an NFL regular-season paycheck as a member of an active roster. And that number could potentially reach double figures.
Include players who signed with NFL teams but were released before seeing any action and the total climbs to 13 defensive players from that team who had a legitimate opportunity to play NFL football.
“That’s crazy just thinking about it,” said current defense lineman Haiden Nagel, the last remaining defensive player from that 2013 roster.
FAU Becomes Bowl Eligible
With nine future NFL players on the defensive side of the ball, FAU ranked No. 11 nationally by allowing only 328.8 yards per game.
That 2013 team became bowl eligible by winning its final four games under interim coach Brian Wright to post a 6-6 record, but the Owls did not receive a bid. The current FAU team has the best shot of reaching a bowl since the 2008 Owls who won the Motor City Bowl
“We could have easily been 8-4, and that would have looked a lot better,” defensive tackle Brandin Bryant said of the 2013 Owls. “There was a lot of talent on that team.”
NFL teams drafted cornerbacks Keith Reaser and D’Joun Smith, linebacker Randell Johnson and defensive end Trey Hendrickson.
Defensive tackles Trevon Coley and Bryant, cornerback Cre’von LeBlanc, linebacker Adarius Glanton, and safety Sharrod Neasman all made rosters as undrafted free agents.
The number of NFL players from that defense could rise to 10 at any moment. Safety Damian Parms spent last season on Buffalo’s practice roster and currently sits on the Carolina Panthers practice squad but has yet to be elevated to the active roster. Additionally, free agent defensive tackle Shalom Ogbonda participated in the New York Jets preseason camp and could join an NFL team.
And with a strong finish to this season, Nagel could draw interest from NFL scouts.
By comparison, FAU’s first bowl team, which will be honored at Saturday’s homecoming game against North Texas, produced only five NFL players. One of them, running back Alfred Morris, redshirted that season, never seeing the field.
Ogbonda, safety Christian Milstead and linebacker Andrae Kirk signed with NFL teams and attended camps but were released before the start of their seasons.
Additionally, defensive end Martin Wright enjoyed a few years in the Canadian Football League.
FAU Recruiting Team of Pros
Of the nine players who made rosters, three (Johnson, Reaser and Smith) were brought to FAU by the Howard Schnellenberger regime. The other six signed with FAU during the tenure of Carl Pelini and his recruiting coordinator Jeff Sims. Ogbonda straddled the line, committing to the Schnellenbrger-led Owls but not signing until after Pelini took over the program.
“Florida Atlantic has a broad appeal throughout the state and across the country,” Sims said. “If someone does a tremendous job of looking at talent, not looking for recruiting rankings and those things, you’re going to be able to find that guy that’s talented and hungry, though a little bit overlooked. And if you can connect all the dots he’s going to want to come to Florida Atlantic because it’s a great place. If you do that, you put in the hard work, you’re going to end up with a talent level that’s better than what the other Conference USA football teams have.”
Prior to Pelini and Sims, FAU almost exclusively recruited within the Sunshine State. Sims’ experience in the land of junior college football allowed FAU to widen its recruiting base (He’s back in junior college, where we won the national title last year as the head coach at Garden City Community College).
Current coach Lane Kiffin and his staff employed a similar recruiting strategy this past recruiting cycle, landing a class full of junior college players and high schoolers who hail from the likes of Georgia, Alabama and Texas and New York. It was widely touted as the best recruiting class in C-USA.
Pelini and Sims were the first to place an emphasis on junior college recruits. Though there were some notable misses, Glanton and Bryant both came to FAU from junior colleges.
Overlooked coming out of high school because he played mostly linebacker, Bryant originally signed with Seattle upon his graduation from FAU before being released. He spent last season with the New York Jets.
Glanton attended five junior colleges looking for the right fit before signing with the Owls, Sims said. In his fourth NFL season, the third with Tampa Bay. Glanton is enjoying a breakout year.
Sims said he never worked harder to get a player eligible than he did with Glanton, but once FAU and the NCAA accepted the paperwork Glanton proved to be a model teammate.
“The kids who made mistakes and have had to struggle to correct them, a lot of times they’re no issue once they get to your place because they appreciate what they have; where some guys who maybe have not been through some of the tough stuff, they don’t appreciate it enough,” Sims said.
Offensively, the 2013 Owls only had one player make an NFL roster. Lucky Whitehead signed as a free agent with the Dallas Cowboys, where his primary contributions came as a kickoff and punt returner. Dallas released Whitehead over the summer. He signed with the N. Y. Jets, but injured his foot before the start of the season.
Fellow wide receiver Jenson Stoshak signed with Carolina in 2016 after exhausting his FAU eligibility but the Panthers released him prior to the start of that season. Offensive lineman Dillon DeBoer signed with the Los Angeles Chargers this past May. An injury stalled his NFL career – at least for the moment.
And little used running back Martese Jackson, who carried the ball nine times for 27 yards in 2013, recently enjoyed his first season with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL.
“We’re a better team now than then, but we were still a good team back then,” Nagel said.
2013 FAU Owls in the NFL
- Brandin Bryant (FA) – His six sacks tied for second on the Owls in 2013. Recorded 51 tackles, including 9.5 for loss. Could sign again with an NFL club soon.
- Trevon Coley (Cle) – Credited with 37 tackles, two of them sacks, in his sophomore season. First full season on the Browns active roster off to a strong start.
- Adarius Glanton (TB) – His 75 tackles were third most on 2013 team. Recorded eight tackles for loss. Enjoying a breakout season for the Bucs.
- Trey Hendrickson (NO) – Made nine tackles, including 1.5 sacks as a true freshman. First NFL sack part of five tackles thus far as a rookie.
- Randell Johnson (FA) – Credited with 41 tackles, including 7.5 for loss in 2013. Played for Buffalo and the New York Jets.
- Cre’von LeBlanc (Chi) – Started three games as a sophomore nickel back for FAU, recording 24 tackles. In his second season as a key piece of the Bears’ secondary.
- Sharrod Neasman (Atl) – Recorded five tackles as a walk-on in 2013. Became first Owl to play in a Super Bowl.
- Keith Reaser (KC PS) – Injured midway through the season, broke up four passes and made six tackles in 2013. Released earlier this season by San Francisco. Signed to Kansas City’s practice squad.
- D’Joun Smith (FA) – Tied a program record with seven interceptions in 2013 on his way to becoming an All-Conference USA selection. Highest drafted Owl in program history.