Five Florida Atlantic University football players extended their playing careers by signing NFL free agent contracts following the 2016 draft.
Two defensive linemen Brandin Bryant and Trevon Coley joined the Owls in 2012, both as freshmen starters, and the duo became the third and fourth FAU defensive linemen in the programís history to extend their playing football careers. Bryant signed with the Seattle Seahawks while Coley joined the Baltimore Ravens. Sharrod Neasman signed with the Atlanta Falcons while fellow defensive back Creívon LeBlanc signed with New England Patriots, reuniting him with Nick Caley, his former FAU unit coach, who is currently with the Patriots. Wide receiver Jenson Stoshak inked with Carolina Panthers to bring the Owlsí free agent signees to five.
Since the programís inception in 2001, 38 players have signed professional football contracts. The first FAU player to sign an NFL contract was Brian Pare, a long snapper, who signed with the Chicago Bears in 2004. Below are this year's signees.
Brandin Bryant, Seattle Seahawks
Bryant is the first FAU player to sign with Seattle. He set the tone for the FAU defensive line as a disruptive unit in both 2014 and 2015. Bryant was well on his way to breaking the single-season sack mark in 2013, until he was sidelined with an injury. Again, in 2014 he became the bar setter for the line and his five 2015 sacks were part of a team record setting total of 35 team sacks. His ability to help flush opposing quarterbacks out of the pocket led to junior Trey Hendricksonís recording a single-season record setting and No. 2 national rank of 13.5 sacks. Bryant recorded a career total of 130 tackles, 13.5 sacks for a loss of 102 yards. He recorded 27 tackles for a loss and forced two fumbles. He follows a long legacy of great football players. His grandfather, Charles Bryant, was an All-American and Hall of Fame member at the University of Nebraska and his father, Robert Bryant, was an All-American at the University of Southern Colorado and signed a free agent contract with the New York Giants.
Trevon Coley, Baltimore Ravens
Trevon Coley, a defensive tackle, served as an Owl a team captain and was instrumental on a defensive line that set the programís all-time single-season sack record with 35. The Owls sat atop the league in sacks and were ranked No. 13 nationally. Coley was named first team all-conference as well as the teamís 2015 MVP. He participated in the 2016 East/West Shrine game after a stellar FAU career that saw the Miramar native start in every game since 2012. Coley tallied 66 tackles as a senior and a total of 195 in his four-year career, including 21 tackles for a loss. He is the first in the programís history to sign with the Ravens.
Sharrod Neasman, Atlanta Falcons
Dreams were fulfilled for Sharrod Neasman when the Palmetto, Fla. native signed with the Atlanta Falcons. Neasman did not have a scholarship offer out of high school. Following his high school graduation, he began working to save money for college and working to position himself for a walk-on opportunity. He joined the Owls in the spring of 2012, saw action in eight 2013 games, became a starter for the following two seasons (14-15) and did it all after returning from an early collegiate career knee injury. As a senior, he tallied 74 tackles. He also added three interceptions. Neasman served as a team captain and was named the teamís 2015 Student-Athlete of the Year. The veteran safety was instrumental in guiding a young defensive back corps, two of which earned all-conference honors, an accomplishment that would not have happened without Neasmanís leadership. He will graduate next week with a mechanical engineering degree. He tallied 32 career games played, 139 tackles, including three for a loss. He forced one fumble, grabbed five interceptions and defended seven passes. Neasmanís opportunity continues the strong tradition of defensive backs to extend their playing careers, especially in the last three seasons. In the last three years, a total of seven defensive backs have signed professional contracts including LeBlanc, Keith Reaser, DíJoun Smith, Damian Parms, and Christian Milstead.
Creívon LeBlanc, New England Patriots
Creívon LeBlanc, a senior cornerback, was a four-year starter for the Owls. As a senior, he tallied 43 tackles, four interceptions and recorded 11 pass breakups to earn second team All-Conference USA recognition as a senior. He was instrumental as a team captain while working with a young defensive back corps and was credited with 17 kick returns for 387 yards, an average of 22.8 yards per return as well as five punt returns for a total of 30 yards in 2016. His four-year career saw the Belle Glade native tally 180 tackles, including 133 solo tackles, and three for a loss of five yards. He recorded six career interceptions and 23 passes defended, often guarding the opponentís top receiver. He earned a special teams game ball following his performance against Middle Tennessee in 2014 and was named FAUís 2015 Defensive MVP. He earned Honorable Mention C-USA honors in 2014, earned Preseason C-USA honors in 2015 and concluded his final campaign as a second team all-conference member. He also participated in the 2016 East/West Shrine game.
Jenson Stoshak, Carolina Panthers
Jenson Stoshak, the fourth FAU receiver in the programís 15 year history to have the opportunity to extend his career, came to FAU in 2012 as a walk-on and his work ethic and ability saw the Jacksonville native earn a scholarship as a sophomore and was voted by the players as a 2016 team captain. He played in 46 games as an Owl, recorded 132 receptions for a total of 1885 yards for an average of 14.3 yards per reception. He had a career high nine receptions versus Middle Tennessee in 2014 and had a 65-yard reception versus Middle Tennessee in 2015. He also added punt return duties to his resume in 2015. His longest return was a 38 yarder in the 2015 Middle Tennessee game, a game that he had a total of 42 punt return yards. He was a 2016 C-USA honorable honoree.