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Undrafted locals find NFL homes

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Mitch Wilcox

Three former area standouts were selected in the NFL Draft — Justin Strnad (East Lake/Wake Forest), Isaiah Rodgers (Blake/UMass) and Sterling Hofrichter (Armwood/Syracuse). That left plenty of other  locals who had to wait a little longer before signing as undrafted free agents. Here is the list of those who have signed so far. 

TE Mitch Wilcox, Cincinnati Bengals

High school: Tarpon Springs 

College: USF

USF’s Mitch Wilcox, a former standout at Tarpon Springs, spent the past weekend waiting to see his name scroll across the television as an NFL Draft pick.

It was hard for his neighbors in Tarpon Springs not to know Wilcox was a possible selection considering the banner that was placed on the side of the house.

For three days, Wilcox waited. The call never came. As an undrafted free agent, he spent the past two days fielding calls from teams before signing with the Bengals. Soon after, the family celebrated.

The four-year starter is regarded as the best tight end in Bulls history. He set nearly every school record at the position, including career marks for receiving yards (1,326), receptions (100) and receiving touchdowns (11). Those numbers helped him become a Mackey Award candidate each of the last three seasons.

Mitch Wilcox
Mitch Wilcox/Photo credit (including feature above): USF athletics

More than just a dependable receiver, Wilcox routinely showed off his blocking ability and helped three USF rushers to 1,000-yard seasons (2016-18). He played in three bowl games, winning two, and was a three-time all-AAC selection. Wilcox also earned invitations to play in the East-West Shrine Game and take part in the NFL Combine. 

RB Tony Jones Jr., New Orleans Saints

High school: St. Petersburg Catholic/IMG

College: Notre Dame

The sturdy back was one of the first players the Saints signed as an undrafted free agent. A heralded high school prospect, Jones played in the Army All-American Game before heading to South Bend. He improved his rushing total each of the last three seasons with the Irish.

As a senior, Jones became the 10th player in school history to have at least five 100-yard rushing games in one season, including a career-high 176 yards in a win over rival Southern California. He followed that with a 135-yard performance in a win over Iowa State in the Camping World Bowl, including an 84-yard touchdown that set the school record for the longest run in a bowl game. He finished this past season with 857 yards rushing and six touchdowns.

WR George Campbell, New York Jets

High school: East Lake

College: FSU/West Virginia

Campbell, who spent four seasons at FSU, was a five-star recruit and the No. 3 receiver prospect in the class of 2015, according to 247Sports. In three seasons with the Seminoles (he redshirted in 2016), Campbell battled through numerous injuries and finished with 13 career catches for 206 yards. His best season was in 2017 when he had six catches for 122 yards. Campbell announced in February of last year that he would become a graduate transfer. He initially planned on going to Penn State, but changed his plans, opting to spend his final season in college at West Virginia. Campbell joined a Mountaineers offense that lost its top three receivers from last season.

CB Isaiah Brown, Buffalo Bills

High school: Tampa Bay Tech

College: FIU

This past weekend, Brown did not get the birthday present he wanted after being bypassed in the NFL draft. Still, it didn’t take long for him to get picked up. By signing with the Bills, Brown joins two other locals already on the roster: Ray-Ray McCloud (Sickles/Clemson) and Mike Love (Countryside/USF). Another area standout, Brandon Walton (Seminole/FAU), signed with the team as an undrafted free agent. As a senior at FIU this past season, Brown recorded 44 tackles and two interceptions.   

Brandon Walton
Brandon Walton/Photo credit: FAU Athletics

OL Brandon Walton, Buffalo Bills

High school: Seminole

College: FAU

The local list of Bills players grew with the addition of Walton as an undrafted free agent. The left tackle spent last season helping quarterback Chris Robison put up impressive stats thanks to solid protection. Walton was a first-team All-Conference USA selection and the leader of a line that was a big reason the Owls and their high-octane offense won a conference title. In the Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl, Walton was part of a line that allowed just one sack and paved the way for 521 yards of offense. 

DB Christian Angulo, New York Giants

High school: East Bay

College: Hampton

The former East Bay standout went on to have a productive college career. Angulo was the defensive MVP of the Chicago Football Classic thanks to his five pass breakups, three tackles and one interception that helped his team beat Howard.  He finished fifth in Division I-AA with 14 pass breakups this past season. Angulo was also named to the Big South All-Academic team, and was a second team All-Big South Conference selection.

OL Jackson Dennis, Arizona Cardinals

High school: Jesuit

College: Holy Cross

One of the anchors on Holy Cross’ line the past three seasons who helped the offense put up big numbers in the Patriot League. He joins Mason Cole (East Lake/Michigan) as the locals on the Cardinals’ line.

RB Napoleon Maxwell, Chicago Bears

High school: Admiral Farragut

College: FIU

After missing two season due to injury, Maxwell returned and became a dependable back, rushing for than 470 yards in each of his last three seasons. As a junior, he led the Panthers rushing attempts (128), yards (684) and touchdowns (7). This past season, Maxwell capped off his college career by rushing for 675 yards and tying for the team in touchdowns with nine.

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College Football

Former PHU/UCF star Jacob Harris goes to Rams in 4th round

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Jacob Harris, a former star at Palm Harbor University and Central Florida, was taken in the fourth round by the Los Angeles Rams.

Harris, a former soccer standout who did not start playing organized football until senior year at Palm Harbor University, has gone through a meteoric rise to become a sleeper pick in this year’s draft.

He started off as a walk-on at Western Kentucky before transferring to UCF. For the past two seasons, Harris was a dependable receiver for the Knights. As a senior, he had 30 catches for 539 yards and eight touchdowns.

Harris’ most memorable game came against USF this past season when he had five catches for 110 yards and three touchdowns.

With the Rams, Harris will join former East Lake star Tyler Higbee in a group of tight ends that features plenty of locals.  

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College Football

The local list of potential NFL picks

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The NFL Draft concludes Saturday. Plenty of locals have the potential to be picked. Below is the list of former area stars who could hear their name called. All were either on mock drafts or were selected to an all-star game or NFL Combine. 

Photos courtesy of UCF Athletics

TE Jacob Harris, Palm Harbor University/UCF

Harris, a former soccer standout who did not start playing organized football until senior year at Palm Harbor University, has gone through a meteoric rise to become a sleeper pick in this year’s draft. He started off as a walk-on at Western Kentucky before transferring to UCF. For the past two seasons, Harris was a dependable receiver for the Knights. As a senior, he had 30 catches for 539 yards and eight touchdowns. Harris’ most memorable game came against USF this past season when he had five catches for 110 yards and three touchdowns. 

OL Shane McGough, Gaither/Florida International

The younger brother of former Gaither and FIU quarterback Alex McGough redshirted as a freshman before becoming a consistent starter on the Panthers’ offensive line. He was an all-Conference USA honorable mention selection in 2018 and 2020. This past season, McGough started in four of FIU’s five games as a center.  

WR Antonio Nunn, Jefferson/Buffalo

Nunn, a dynamic deep threat at Jefferson, redshirted his first season at Buffalo before rocketing up the depth chart. He started every game the past two seasons, finishing with a combined 86 catches for 1,271 yards and eight touchdowns. Nunn was a third-team all-MAC selection in 2019 and second-team selection this past season. 

Photo courtesy of Indiana University Athletics

WR Whop Philyor, Plant/Indiana

A first-team, all-state selection at Plant, Philyor became Indiana’s most dependable receiving target during his college career. He finished with 2,316 all-purpose yards (2,067 receiving, 134 rushing, 66 kick return, 49 punt return) in 38 games (22 starts).Philyor also is the Hoosiers’ s all-time leader in double-digit catch games (7), ranks fourth in receptions (180), fourth in 100-yard games (7), ninth in yardage (2,067) and is tied for 16th in touchdowns (12). He capped off his career by setting a Big Ten bowl and Outback Bowl record with 18 receptions for 81 yards. 

DL Justus Reed, CCC/Virginia Tech

A first-team, all-state selection, Reed led Clearwater Central Catholic to its only state final appearance as a senior in 2013. He started out at Florida before spending three seasons at Youngstown State. This past season, Reed transferred to Virginia Tech as a graduate student. He started in 10 of the Hokies’ 11 games, finishing with 28 tackles and 6.5 sacks.  

Photo courtesy of USF Athletics

DB K.J. Sails, East Bay/USF

A highly touted high school recruit, Sails spent his first three years in college at North Carolina before transferring to USF. As a junior, he led the Bulls in interceptions with three and recorded 22 tackles this past season. Sails gained notoriety this past summer when he organized a unity walk during the social justice movement that was attended by about 400 teammates, coaches, administrators and community members.  

Oregon's Jordon Scott/Photo credit: Oregon Athletics
Photo courtesy of Oregon Athletics

DL Jordon Scott, Pinellas Park/Oregon

The three-star high school prospect originally committed to Florida before signing with Oregon. He immediately became a force on the Ducks’ defensive line, earning FWAA freshman all-America honors in 2017. Scott opted to return to Oregon as a senior rather than turn pro and helped the Ducks reach the Pac-12 title game for the second straight season. 

Photo courtesy of TCU Athletics Communications

TE Pro Wells, Hollins/Texas Christian

As a senior at Hollins, Wells had a breakout season, finishing with 31 catches for 952 yards and five touchdowns. He played at Milford Academy and Northwest Mississippi Community College, where he became the No. 4 JUCO tight end in the nation. After redshirting in 2018 at Texas Christian, Wells turned a reliable red-zone target and led the team in touchdown receptions each of the past two seasons. 

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College Football

Tre McKitty goes to Chargers in the third round

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Georgia tight end Tre McKitty, who spent time at Wesley Chapel and Tampa Catholic before transferring to IMG Academy, was selected at the end of the third with the Los Angeles Chargers’ compensatory pick (97th overall). 

He becomes the first player with area ties taken in this year’s draft. 

A three-star recruit at IMG, McKitty started his college career at Florida State, where he played in 35 games and caught 50 passes for 520 yards and a pair of touchdowns. 

McKitty (photo above courtesy of UGA Athletic Association) went to Georgia as a graduate assistant this past season. He finished with six catches for 108 yards and a touchdown. 

The Chargers have a knack for bringing in local talent. Former Admiral Farragut standout Rayshawn Jenkins was selected in the fourth by the Chargers in 2017. Sean Culkin (Indian Rocks Christian/Missouri) and Artavis Scott (East Lake/Clemson) spent time with team as undrafted free agents.  

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