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Six Former UNI Players Hope To Impact 2017 NFL Season

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Press Conference
Courtesy: Tim Bradbury – Getty Images

With the 2017 National Football League season kicking off this weekend, a half dozen former UNI Panthers can be found on NFL rosters. Each player is hoping to make an impact in the league.

UNI currently has six former players in the NFL, with the most-recent signing being Terrell Sinkfield to the New York Jets’ practice squad.

Below is a full summary of former UNI stars who are currently in the NFL as the regular season begins.


DAVID JOHNSON (2011-14)

San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals
Courtesy: Chris Coduto – Getty Images

The former Panther running back is entering his third season with the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals third-round selection (86th overall) in the 2015 NFL Draft out of UNI, Johnson has played in all 32 games (21 starts) during his first two NFL seasons. He started all 16 games last season, becoming the first Cardinals running back to start 16 games in a season since Edgerrin James in 2007.

Johnson earned first-team All-Pro honors (AP, PFWA, Sporting News, Pro Football Focus) and was named to his first Pro Bowl after leading the NFL and establishing a new franchise single-season record with 2,118 scrimmage yards (1,239 rushing; 879 receiving) in 2016. Johnson, also led the NFL and set a franchise record with 20 TDs in 2016, including a franchise record 16 rushing TDs. Johnson was named the team MVP by the local PFWA chapter last season. The Cardinals elected to protect their prized running back and sat him most of the 2017 preseason, giving him only six total carries.


DEIONDRE’ HALL (2012-15)

Courtesy: Jonathan Daniel - Getty Images
Courtesy: Jonathan Daniel – Getty Images

Deiondre’ Hall is entering his second season with the Chicago Bears in 2017. He was most recently placed on the team’s injured reserve. Hall played in eight games as a rookie in the 2016 season. He totaled nine tackles, including seven solo stops. Hall posted his first NFL interception in a week four win over the Detroit Lions. This preseason, Hall played in four games for the Bears, making three tackles and defending two passes.


AUSTIN HOWARD (2006-09)

Oakland Raiders v Minnesota Vikings
Courtesy: Hannah Foslien – Getty Images

The Davenport, Iowa, native is beginning his eighth year in the NFL. Howard has played for the Philadelphia Eagles (2010), New York Jets (2011-2013), the Oakland Raiders (2014-2016) and the Baltimore Ravens (2017-present). Howard has made 72 starts and has seen action in 76 NFL games in his career. During the 2017 preseason, Howard started in two games for the Ravens.


L.J. FORT (2008-10)

Cleveland Browns v Oakland Raiders
L.J. Fort (No. 58) / Courtesy: Ezra Shaw – Getty Images

The former Panther linebacker enters his third season with the Pittsburgh Steelers and his fifth overall in the NFL. Fort played in 14 games in 2016, making four total tackles for the Steelers, with three being solos. Fort’s career high in tackles came in his rookie season with the Cleveland Browns, when the linebacker recorded 20 stops in 16 games played. Fort also started once for the Browns in 2012. During the preseason this year, Fort played in four games, recording a total of 22 tackles.


XAVIER WILLIAMS (2011-14)

Arizona Cardinals v San Diego Chargers
Courtesy: Stephen Dunn – Getty Images

Defensive lineman Xavier Williams is entering his third season with the Arizona Cardinals. Williams has appeared in 12 games overall in the NFL, making one start in 2016. The former UNI Panther recorded a career high six tackles with the Cardinals last season. During the 2017 preseason, Williams played in all five games with the Cardinals, recording a total of seven tackles and earning a half sack against the Atlanta Falcons on Aug. 26.


TERRELL SINKFIELD (2009-12)

Minnesota Vikings v Seattle Seahawks
Courtesy: Otto Greule, Jr. – Getty Images

Before the start of the 2017 regular season, former Panther Terrell Sinkfield was signed to the New York Jets practice squad as a cornerback. Sinkfield began his NFL career as an undrafted free agent with the Miami Dolphins in 2013. Since then, Sinkfield has spent time with the Green Bay Packers, Buffalo Bills, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts, Hamilton Tiger-Cats and BC Lions.


UNI NFL DRAFT HISTORY

1966 – Randy Schultz, RB | Cleveland Browns | 5th round, 74th pick
1966 – Doug Korver, OL | Atlanta Falcons | 18th round, 261st pick
1968 – Ray Pedersen, OL/DL | Baltimore Colts | 17th round, 458th pick
1976 – Bill Salmon, QB | Minnesota Vikings | 10th round, 289th pick
1976 – Mike Timmermans, OL | Green Bay Packers | 17th round, 440th pick
1982 – Steve Sandon, QB | New England Patriots | 11th round, 296th pick
1990 – Bryce Paup, LB | Green Bay Packers | 6th round, 159th pick
1991 – James Jones, DL | Cleveland Browns | 3rd round, 57th pick
1993 – Kenny Shedd, WR | New York Jets | 5th round, 129th pick
1997 – Dedric Ward, WR | New York Jets | 3rd round, 88th pick
1999 – Ty Talton, DB | Detroit Lions | 5th round, 137th pick
2000 – Brad Meester, OL | Jacksonville Jaguars | 2nd round, 60th pick
2001 – Eddie Berlin, WR | Tennessee Titans | 5th round, 159th pick
2002 – Ryan Hannam, TE | Seattle Seahawks | 5th round, 169th pick
2008 – Chad Rinehart, OL | Washington Redskins | 3rd round, 96th pick
2008 – Brandon Keith, OL | Arizona Cardinals | 7th round, 225th pick
2015 – David Johnson, RB |Arizona Cardinals | 3rd round, 86th pick
2016 – Deiondre’ Hall, DB | Chicago Bears | 4th round, 127th pick

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