NFL Draft picks Laken Tomlinson and Jamison Crowder aren’t the only former Duke headed to NFL rookie minicamps.
In fact, there are seven other former Blue Devils that will have their shot at the highest level.
Quarterback Anthony Boone (Detroit Lions), offensive tackle Takoby Cofield (Washington Redskins), wide receiver Issac Blakeney (San Francisco 49ers) and defensive end Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo (Philadelphia Eagles) signed free agent contracts with their respective teams. And linebacker David Helton (New York Jets), defensive end Dezmond Johnson (Cincinnati Bengals) and running back Josh Snead (Denver Broncos) have been invited to camps on a tryout basis. A little bit more on each:
Played in 46 career games with 25 starts …completed 540-of-923 (.585) passes for 5,789 yards with 38 touchdowns and 24 interceptions and rushed 230 times for 800 yards (3.48 yards per carry) and 16 touchdowns…honorable mention all-ACC… finished career as the winningest quarterback in Duke history with 19 career victories, ahead of Jerry Barger’s 17 wins (1951-54)
Played in 51 career games, starting the final 42 consecutive contests at left tackle …on the field for 3,274 career snaps...thrid-team all-ACC in 2014
San Franciso 49ers
In 40 career games (18 starts), caught 98 passes for 1,093 yards (11.15) and 12 touchdowns…recorded one 100-yard game with a 107-yard performance versus Wake Forest in 2014
Played in 45 career games with 22 starts … posted 90 tackles, including 14.5 tackles for loss and 10.0 sacks … credited with nine quarterback pressures, four caused fumbles and one fumble recovery.
New York Jets
Played in 49 career games with 32 starting assignments, registering 347 tackles, 14.0 tackles for loss, 4.0 quarterback sacks, 10 quarterback pressures, three pass breakups and one fumble recovery ...First team all-ACC selection in 2014 after leading the league in tackles per game (10.31) for the second straight year… recipient of the most prolific academic award in college football, the 2014 National Football Foundation William V. Campbell Trophy
Played in 48 career games with 14 starting assignments, finishing his career with 85 tackles, 16.5 tackles for lost yardage (-70 yards) and 7.5 sacks (-35 yards) … credited with 10 quarterback pressures, two pass breakups and two fumbles recoveries
In 50 career games (14 starts), rushed 332 times for 1,769 yards (5.33) and seven touchdowns and added 28 receptions for 167 yards (5.96) and two touchdowns…returned 22 kickoffs for 483 yards (21.96)… finished career with five career 100-yard rushing games against Cincinnati (17-107; 2012; Belk Bowl), Troy (11-108; 2013), Miami (9-138; 2013), Texas A&M (17-104; 2013; Chick-fil-A Bowl) and Georgia Tech (14-102; 2014)
Cofield, who participated in the NFL Combine, had a shot to be a late-round draft pick, but as an undrafted free agent, he had the ability to talk with multiple teams and pick what he thought was the best fit for him. He was a three-year starter at left tackle for Duke and a third-team all-ACC selection last season. Boone, Duke’s two-year starter at quarterback, is the the other undrafted free agent that participated in the Combine.
Former undrafted Blue Devils have recently had success finding a spot in the NFL—last season, Juwan Thompson was one of the biggest surprises of the preseason, working his way from sixth on the depth chart to a spot on the 53-man roster. Last year for the Broncos, he ran the ball 54 times for 272 yards (5.0 yards per carry) for three touchdowns. He also caught four passes for 25 yards and contributed on special teams.
And former tight end Cooper Helfet spent two years on the Seattle Seahawks’ practice squad before making the roster last year. He caught 12 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns.
It takes some luck, no doubt—having people higher on the depth chart succumb to injury is almost a necessary break for undrafted free agents—but it is possible to not hear your name on draft day and play in the NFL.
Here’s a full rundown of former Blue Devils in the NFL:
DE Kenny Anunike, Broncos
CB Ross Cockrell, Buffalo Bills
WR Jamison Crowder, Redskins (2015 4th-round pick)
DB Matt Daniels, Jacksonville Jaguars
TE Cooper Helfet, Seahawks
QB Thad Lewis, Cleveland Browns
QB Sean Renfree, Atlanta Falcons
LB Vincent Rey, Bengals
RB Juwan Thompson, Broncos
OL Laken Tomlinson, Lions (2015 1st-round pick)