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Published: Sunday, 5/11/2014 - Updated: 3 months ago

UT, BG players sign as free agents

No Rockets, Falcons selected in this year’s draft

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
 Toledo quarterback Terrance Owens is tackled by  Bowling Green State University players Justin Ford (39) and Paul Swan (33) during the fourth quarter of their football game in Bowling Green, October 26, 2013. Toledo quarterback Terrance Owens is tackled by Bowling Green State University players Justin Ford (39) and Paul Swan (33) during the fourth quarter of their football game in Bowling Green, October 26, 2013.
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The drought lives on.

For the sixth year in a row, the University of Toledo did not deliver a player to the NFL draft. Only once, from 1941-48, has the program endured a longer dry spell.

Running back David Fluellen, Toledo’s best bet to be scooped up in the seven-round, 256-pick draft, was among five former Rockets to sign a free-agent contract on Saturday.

Fluellen is headed to the Philadelphia Eagles. Receiver Bernard Reedy (Atlanta), outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott (Green Bay), and center Zac Kerin (Minnesota) will also get a chance to make a team’s 2014 opening day roster. Quarterback Terrance Owens signed with Pittsburgh. He could transition to baseball, as he is under contract with the San Diego Padres.

Bowling Green State University had two free agents: tight ends Alex Bayer (St. Louis) and Tyler Beck (New England). Jerry "BooBoo" Gates, a defensive back who was arrested last weekend on drug trafficking charges, apparently did not sign.

Altogether, Mid-American Conference teams accounted for eight picks in the three-day draft, including first-round selections Khalil Mack of Buffalo (Oakland) and Jimmie Ward of Northern Illinois (San Francisco).

A consistent title contender, Toledo has been at the bottom of the MAC in draft success. Since the Rockets’ most recent draft choice — Jalen Parmele, sixth round by Miami in 2008 — the MAC has produced 41 picks. Parmele’s Toledo teammate, John Greco, was taken in the third round that year by St. Louis.

But the Rockets entered the weekend with the most active NFL players in the MAC, the result of success of undrafted free agents.

Like Dan Molls in 2013 and Eric Page in 2012, Fluellen sweated out the final day of the draft. The two-time All-MAC first-team selection watched 19 running backs come off the board, including 11 on Saturday in rounds four through seven. Fluellen was ranked 20th at his position by NFLDraftScout.com.

A history of injuries as well as a slow 40-yard dash (4.72 seconds) at the combine may have undermined Toledo’s fourth all-time leading rusher. At Philadelphia, Fluellen will compete with at least five other backs, none of which the club drafted this year. The Eagles acquired veteran Darren Sproles in a March trade with New Orleans to soften the load on LeSean McCoy, the NFL’s leading rusher in 2013.

UT’s Elliott said he had “mixed emotions” about not being drafted but signing with an organization with the rich history of Green Bay.

“I am happy and blessed to be able to sign a free agent contract, but at the same time I was a little upset about the way the draft went down because I felt like I was a draftable guy,” Elliott said.

BG’s Bayer said he received a call from Tampa Bay during the sixth round and was told the Buccaneers might pick him. The Bucs instead chose Wyoming receiver Robert Herron for their last pick of the day.

“To start off the day I was expecting to get drafted,” Bayer said. “I don’t want to say I thought I was going to be a free agent, but I knew nothing was for certain.

"I got plenty of calls throughout the day. Tight end coaches said they really wanted me but every other position coach was pushing for somebody. St. Louis was the last team to call. They had three picks [in the seventh round] but they passed.”

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.



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