With four Wildcats suiting up for NFL teams this spring, that gives ACU ten players in NFL uniforms.
The first, Danieal Manning was drafted in 2006, and is now a starting safety for the Houston Texans. The other nine however, have all come into the league in the last three years.
In only three seasons, former head coach Chris Thomsen turned Abilene Christian from an unknown Division II school to an NFL factory.
Not only has ACU produced raw talent, but that talent has turned into points at the highest level and the NFL has taken notice. So far ACU has had three players, Manning, Bernard Scott and Johnny Knox, return kickoffs for touchdowns. Scott has added four rushing touchdowns over the last two seasons, including three last year. Knox, an all-Pro his rookie season, has had 12 receiving touchdowns in his career.
These three, and other NFLers Trevis Turner, Clyde Gates and Raymond Radway, have put ACU on the map in the pro sports scene.
So, it didn’t come as a surprise when running back Daryl Richardson got taken with the second to last pick in the final round of the draft by the St. Louis Rams. Richardson had an outstanding Pro Day in front of scouts from 14 NFL teams. He didn’t disappoint them either, running a 4.44 40-yard dash time and jumping a 40.5 inch vertical leap.
Richardson will have to fight for a role though on the Rams who have one of the better running games in the NFL. St. Louis boasts superstar running back Steven Jackson, and also drafted a running back with their second round pick in Isaiah Pead from Cincinnati.
Although Aston Whiteside went undrafted, he might have a better chance at competing for playing time than Richardson. Shortly after the draft ended, Whiteside was signed by the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent. Whiteside gives the Cowboys much needed depth at the linebacker position despite playing defensive end during his time as a Wildcat. The Cowboys drafted two other linebackers with late round draft picks, but with their thin linebacking core, Whiteside could give them some speed and playmaking ability at linebacker.
Both tight end Ben Gibbs and offensive lineman Neal Tivis will have to do a bit more work to make an NFL team. Both have been invited to rookie tryouts, but their is no guarantee that they will make an NFL roster come training camp.
The talent pool at ACU isn’t empty yet either. Barring an injury, quarterback Mitchell Gale should get some looks from NFL scouts around next year’s draft.
With potential across the board, look for Wildcats to make a splash in the 2012 NFL season.