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Villanova alumni in the NFL: Darrel Young key for 'Skins & Ben Ijalana is Jets' #2 left tackle

The Wildcats football program has been rather successful at graduating players into the NFL as an FCS school.

Villanova alum Darrel Young and QB RGIII high-five at Redskins training camp in Richmond, Virginia.
Villanova alum Darrel Young and QB RGIII high-five at Redskins training camp in Richmond, Virginia.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

As arguably the most-important Villanovan on the professional gridiron this Fall, the Redskins' Darrel Young has a big weight on his shoulders in the capitol.

A defensive player while on the Main Line, Young arrived at the Redskins as an undrafted rookie linebacker, scratching and clawing his way to a spot on the roster. The 'Skins prior coaching regime, however, looking at their roster heading into the 2010 season, determined that Young wasn't likely to earn a spot as a linebacker -- so instead, they penciled him in at fullback.

Young had good hands, and his linebacker toughness translated well to the blocking game, so he stuck around. Since 2011, Young has been the Redskins' starter. He has four rushing touchdowns and four receiving touchdowns in his career, and new head coach Jay Gruden has promised that the ex-Wildcat will be a major part of his offense this season.

After having used the fullback just in just 91 plays last season at Cincinnati, the coach has said that he will be drawing up far more plays for the position this season.

"I didn't have Darrel Young in Cincinnati. If I had him, I would have used him," Gruden told the Washington Post. "So he's a very good fullback. He's very versatile, he can run, he can catch. So we're excited about having him. The personnel groupings will vary. We'll have a fullback, two tight ends. We'll have a fullback, one tight end. We'll have two tight ends, no fullback. So the personnel will vary but D.Y. will be a major part of this offense."

He won't be the only one of Andy Talley's players to suit up on Sundays this Fall.

Former second-round pick Ben Ijalana has caught on with the New York Jets and appears on their initial preseason depth-chart as D'Brickashaw Ferguson's understudy at left tackle. Ijalana was a key player in Villanova's 2009 and 2010 teams that won the National Championship and returned to the semifinals the year after, protecting Chris Whitney's blindside and opening up the offense for some of the spectacular plays that carried that team onward.

Ijalana was drafted by Indianapolis and appeared in 4 games for the Colts in 2011, but the injury bug shortened his time with that team, sidelining him for all of 2012 before he was released. The New Jersey native returned to the Garden State afterward and found a spot for himself with the Jets last season, and he has been working with the second-team in camp, preparing to protect the blindside for Geno Smith or Michael Vick, should he be needed.

Scouts also considered the Villanova man as a potential guard prospect in the NFL, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him line-up at guard or right tackle at some point in the future as well.

Bubba Ventrone (or "Ray" as his mother calls him), is preparing for his ninth NFL season in San Francisco. Ventrone was given his first chance by Bill Belichek in New England, where he stuck around for three seasons after graduating Villanova with a reputation as a hard-hitting safety. After leaving the Patriots, he spent four seasons in Cleveland, where a couple of productive years helped him build a reputation. After joining the 49ers last season, he appeared in 16 games and recorded 11 tackles -- he returns this season, listed third on their depth chart at strong safety and a possible special teams contributor.

Ventrone's brother Ross, also started his professional career with the Patriots before moving on to join his hometown Steelers last year. On the black-and-yellow's initial depth chart, he is listed as the fourth option at strong safety.

2014 graduate Rakim Cox (defensive end) was also lucky enough to snag a rookie free agent deal with the Minnesota Vikings, who have not yet published a depth chart. His contract was for three years and $1.53 million (with a minimal guaranteed pay-out of $3,000), but he was waived recently according to, in order to make room for the team to sign DB Chris Crocker.

Cox may still catch on with another team before the NFL breaks camp. His main issues in Minnesota were a need to add strength and a problem with lane discipline, both of which are areas that a team with time to let a player develop can look past.