By Gio Gennero | Sports Writer
During the offseason, Baylor had six players drafted into the NFL — more players selected in this year’s draft than from any other school in Texas. With so many Bears turned pro, it can be hard to keep up with each of their journeys post-draft. To make it easy, here is an update on each draftee from this past summer.
The first from the green and gold taken off the board was safety Jalen Pitre who was picked 37th by the Houston Texans. The Houston native has reportedly been standing out in training camp and finished with four tackles and a tackle for a loss in his first game. Being a higher draft pick on a team that’s been struggling gives Pitre the unique chance to build a name for himself early on.
Not far behind Pitre, speed-threat wideout Tyquan Thornton was selected by the New England Patriots in the second round. He caught both passes thrown his way during his preseason debut, the first resulting in a touchdown. Being on the Patriots could go one of two ways for Thornton. The organization is great with player development, which could get Thornton to where he needs to be. However, playing for head coach Bill Belichick means a shorter leash, which could work against Thornton.
In the third round, the Los Angeles Chargers selected safety JT Woods, who almost had an interception in his first go at preseason action, but the interception was called back because of a teammate’s penalty. The defense that Woods was drafted to is absolutely stacked and gives him the best chance at early success in his career. With elite teammates like Khalil Mack, Derwin James Jr. and Joey Bosa wreaking havoc on opposing offenses, it’ll create a lot of opportunities for the ball hawk in Woods.
Another third rounder was linebacker Terrel Bernard, who was taken by the Buffalo Bills. Bernard came away with a huge “scoop and score” fumble recovery that he took 69 yards to the house for the first touchdown of the game. Bernard is also now running with a solid defense; if he can make a starting role quickly, he’ll be in solid hands.
The next guy embodies “once a Bear, always a Bear”: In the sixth round, running back Tresten Ebner learned he would be taking his talents to the Chicago Bears. In Ebner’s first look of the preseason, he showed his versatility when he got touches on the ground, special teams and through the air. This is where he shines; his versatility as a receiving back and great returner will give teams plenty of reasons to keep him around.
Cornerback Kalon Barnes was taken in the seventh round by the Carolina Panthers, allowing Barnes to reunite with former Baylor head coach Matt Rhule. His connection to Rhule and the lack of consistency from the Panther’s defense means more opportunities for Barnes to prove himself in the league if he can outwork the other defensive backs on his team.
Running back Abram Smith went undrafted, but he later signed to the New Orleans Saints as a free agent. Smith ran well in his preseason opener but unfortunately turned the ball over after fumbling. Being undrafted, he will have an uphill battle to earn his spot, but the converted linebacker will be making waves.
Big 12 Championship hero and defensive back Jairon McVea signed to the defending Super Bowl champs: the Los Angeles Rams. He is currently fighting for a spot on the depth chart, but if he is as locked in as he was in the “McPlay,” then I’m sure he can make it happen.
Current senior safety Christian Morgan said watching the former Bears in the big leagues is inspiring and motivating not only to himself but also to the whole team.
“It was crazy,” Morgan said. “Coach Aranda put them up in a team meeting. He showed us the guys making plays. He basically showed us where those guys came from and said, ‘Keep on grinding, because if you keep on grinding, this is where it can take you.’ It was pretty eye-opening to see.”
Sophomore defensive back AJ McCarty echoed Morgan’s thoughts, as he said seeing guys from last year already doing great things is “inspirational.”
“It’s really inspirational, especially since preseason just started, so they’re all out there making plays,” McCarty said. “To think they were on our team last year, it’s pretty cool, seeing them be able to thrive, rise up, play in the league and make plays.”