It's official, Villanova football has turned a few more graduates to the professional ranks this season. The news for the Wildcats is leaking slowly, but sure enough, some of the athletes that Wildcat fans have most enjoyed watching over the last four years are now able to be associated with teams in the professional circuit. Though none of these athletes were drafted, they will get a chance to earn their place on an NFL roster, and while the odds aren't great, some undrafted free agents (UDFAs) have gone on to spectacular careers.
For Villanova, those careers have included wide receiver Brian Finneran, who spent a decade catching passes for the Falcons, and current Washington Redskin Darrel Young, who went from undrafted linebacker to starting fullback. Other former UDFAs who have outperformed their draft stock include Arian Foster (RB); Wes Welker (WR); Priest Holmes (RB); Jeff Saturday (C); Kurt Warner (QB); Antonio Gates (TE); Warren Moon (QB), and others.
These kids won't be getting the same seven figure signing bonuses that Thursday night's picks will get, but an NFL rookie making the minimum still gets paid much better than an entry-level position doing practically anything else. Even a spot on the practice squad over the course of an NFL season can be a six-figure gig these days.
The following Villanovans were signed to their first professional contract this weekend:
Earnest Pettway, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
Pettway was the first graduate to get a Twitter shout-out from Coach Andy Talley when it was announced that he would be joining the Kansas City Chiefs this Summer. The Villanova tight end is a Los Angeles, California native, who received interest from a number of teams leading up to the draft. The ex-high school basketball player offered a large and athletic target for Villanova during his four years on the Main Line.
At 6-4, 251-pounds, Pettway offered good size to play on every down at Villanova and had the leaping and pass-catching ability to be a superior target in the red zone. He accumulated 487 receiving yards on 48 receptions at Villanova for an average of 10.1 yards per catch, and 8 touchdowns. His senior year was his biggest year as a factor in the offense, despite an injury limiting him to just 8 games. With John Robertson looking to pass the ball more than ever in 2014, Pettway grabbed 14 passes for 190 yards and 4 touchdowns, including a long grab of 36 yards.
Though he didn't accumulate the kind of eye-popping stats that could have moved him up onto someone's draft board, his highlight reel heroics were sufficient to interest NFL coaches looking for the next tough mismatcher at tight end.
Kevin Monangai, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
Pound for pound, Monangai is stronger than Hafþór "Thor" Björnsson, the 6'9, 400-pound Icelanding strongman, Game of Thrones actor (he plays "The Mountain," Gregor Clegane), and former basketball Center. Björnsson has recorded personal squat record of 770-pounds, while Monangai, who weighs in at 5'8" and 209-pounds, has squatted 725, cleaned 365-pounds, and benches around 400-pounds. He does all of that while also reportedly running a blazing-fast 4.33 time in the 40-yard dash at his pro-day.
In other words, the Eagles have signed a gym rat, who has a reputation at Villanova for being a tough and gritty runner. Never stopping his feet until the refs ruled him down, Monangai recorded over 1100-yards rushing twice in his Villanova career, and finished with 3,167 yards on the ground, 29 touchdowns, and a long play of 81 yards. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry while at Villanova as well, and did it all while lining up in an offense where the quarterback seemed to be the focus of the running game.
Prior to the draft, Monangai worked out for the Eagles and Jets and was receiving interest from a few other teams as well. His impressive pro-day numbers and career at Villanova made him the type of player that NFL coaches like to bring into a training camp. It's a no-lose scenario for Chip Kelly with Monangai, he'll either win a spot on the roster, or work so hard that the veterans on the roster get nervous.
Joe Sarnese, FS, Philadelphia Eagles (rookie camp invite)
There wasn't much pre-draft buzz about Sarnese online, but the Villanova safety had been a four-year starter for Andy Talley's defense and had earned the role of defensive leader early in his career. The 5'11", 198-pound defensive back doesn't have ideal size for the NFL, but he excels in football awareness and executes his position well, with a knack for beating the offensive players to the ball.
He had 10 career interceptions for Villanova, returning just one for a touchdown, and recorded 267 tackles as well. His lone interception-return touchdown came on a 48-yard dash against Towson last Fall.
Sarnese will potentially be a long-shot to stick with the Eagles, but he could fill a similar role to Jim Leonhard, who played ten seasons in the NFL after being undrafted and signed by the Buffalo Bills. Leonhard was a journeyman on defense, but with the Ravens and Jets, Rex Ryan counted on him to be a "defensive quarterback" for the team, starting most of his games from that point on.