December 21, 2011

Bulldogs in the NFL This Season

Yalies Still Finding NFL Roles

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons all have something in common this season. All five National Football League teams have had a former Yale student-athlete suit up in a game or on the sideline as a coach in 2011.

Twenty-eight Yale men have played in the NFL, including a streak of having an Eli on an NFL roster for 29 straight years (1961-89), but none saw regular season action this fall.  However, Shane Bannon '11 and Tom McCarthy '11 were able to have impacts on pro squads.

Bannon, an H-back on the Chiefs' practice team, had a number of carries during pre-season games and was improving each week before suffering a season-ending injury midway through the year. He was drafted by Kansas City in the seventh round before getting the first and final carry of the opening pre-season contest in August.

McCarthy, who played in multiple Atlanta pre-season contests, is the only Bulldog to play on the defensive line for an NFL team. Most of the guys who left New Haven to play in the pros ended up as defensive backs, running backs or tight ends. McCarthy, the former Yale captain who made two tackles in one of the exhibition games, signed as a free agent.

The San Francisco 49ers brought in a pair of ex-Yale tight ends to push Vernon Davis and company last summer. Nate Lawrie '04 and Chris Blohm '11 signed deals attempting to follow in the footsteps of Eric Johnson '01, who played six seasons for the 49ers and two for the New Orleans Saints. Lawrie had spent time with four other NFL teams including the Saints. Neither he nor Blohm stayed with the 49ers beyond the summer.

Three former Bulldogs are coaching in the NFL this season. Dick Jauron '73 (in photo), who has spent 33 years in the NFL, playing and coaching, is the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns. Last year he coached the Philadelphia Eagles' defensive backs. Jauron, one of two (Charley Ewart '38) Yalies to become an NFL head coach, was the 2001 AP Coach of the Year with the Chicago Bears and his most recent head coaching gig was at Buffalo (2006-09).

Pat Graham '01, a former Yale tight end and defensive lineman, is an assistant coach for the Patriots. Graham, a Waterbury, Conn., native who has been a college assistant coach in a number of places, was a member of Yale's 1999 Ivy title team.

Michael McDaniel '05, an offensive assistant with the Houston Texans from 2006-08, spent his fifth NFL season in the same role with the Redskins this fall.