Two former Spartans drafted to NFL, others sign as UDFAs
The 2017 NFL Draft was held over the weekend and several former Spartans were either drafted or signed as undrafted free agents.
Two Spartans were drafted by NFL teams, while numerous others look to make their presence known as undrafted free agents or given minicamp invites upon conclusion of the draft.
Here is a list of the former Spartans who were drafted over the weekend:
Malik McDowell/Defensive End/Seattle Seahawks (No. 35 Overall, Second Round)
McDowell, who chose to forgo his senior season in December, didn’t hear his name called in the first round on Thursday, but the Detroit native came off the board early on Friday as he was selected by the Seattle Seahawks in the second round with the No. 35 overall pick.
With McDowell drafted, the streak continues for the MSU football program as they have had at least one player drafted each year since 1941, which is also the third-longest streak in the nation.
“It’s the craziest call I got, ever,” McDowell said via teleconference. “I’m just here with the family. They’re happy, we’re all happy. I’m just coming in there to compete. That’s all I can do and whatever works out from there, that’s what it is.”
In the 2014 season, he logged 15 tackles, including 4.5 for losses and 1.5 sacks along with collecting Freshman All-American honors by the Football Writers Association of America and was also named to the ESPN.com and BTN.com Big Ten All-Freshman Teams.
As a sophomore, McDowell ranked second on the team in tackles for loss with 13 for 54 yards, was tied for second in quarterback hurries with eight and finished third in sacks with 4.5. McDowell was a second-team All-Big Ten selection by both the coaches and media.
McDowell was the only returning starter on the defensive line last season for MSU from the 2015 Big Ten Championship and College Football Playoff team. He led the defensive line with 34 tackles, including a team-best seven for losses despite only playing in nine games due to an injury that cost him to miss the last three games of the season.
McDowell ended his MSU career with 90 tackles, including 24.5 for losses, 7.5 sacks, two fumbles forced and one interception returned for a touchdown in 36 total games.
Montae Nicholson/Safety/Washington Redskins (No. 123 Overall, Fourth Round)
Former safety Montae Nicholson was selected by the Washington Redskins in the fourth round Saturday and became the highest Spartan safety drafted since Eric Smith was drafted in the third round, No. 97 overall by the New York Jets in 2006 and the seventh defensive back to be drafted under head coach Mark Dantonio.
As a true freshman, Nicholson played in all 13 games in the 2014 season, including three starts.
One of four freshmen to letter for MSU in 2014, Nicholson, who was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team by ESPN.com and BTN.com in his first season, led all first-year players with 31 tackles and led the team with 10 tackles on special teams, including a team-high nine on kickoffs.
In 2015, Nicholson was tied for a team-high three interceptions and ranked third on the team with 83 tackles, including 2.5 for losses.
A native of Monroeville, Pa., Nicholson finished second on the team with a career-high 86 tackles as a junior in 2016, which was third among Big Ten defensive backs and 16th overall in the conference.
Nicholson announced his decision to forgo his senior season in December to enter the draft and left East Lansing with 200 tackles, four interceptions, 4.5 tackles for loss, three fumble recoveries and one forced fumble in 38 career games.
Other Spartans were signed as undrafted free agents and some given minicamp invites:
Riley Bullough/Linebacker/Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A four-year letterwinner, Bullough finished his Spartan career with 214 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, four interceptions, three fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles in 50 total games.
The 6-foot-2, 227 pound linebacker was a third-generation Spartan after his grandfather and father both played football at MSU.
Bullough’s brother Max, who played for the Spartans from 2010-13, is also in the NFL as he is entering his fourth season with the Houston Texans.
Demetrious Cox/Defensive Back/Cincinnati Bengals
Cox was a four-year letterwinner at MSU.The 6-foot-1 defensive back logged 166 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 14 pass break-ups, four interceptions and two fumble recoveries in 51 career games.
Josiah Price/Tight End/Minnesota Vikings
Price left a memorable mark on the MSU football program over his four-year letterwinner career.
With 21 total career touchdowns, Price is MSU’s all-time leader among tight ends for most career touchdown catches and is fourth among all players. In East Lansing, Price hauled in 104 catches for 1,238 yards in 51 total games along with his 21 touchdowns.
R.J. Shelton/Wide Receiver/Minnesota Vikings
Shelton played in 52 career games, catching 116 passes for 1,471 yards. He scored 11 reception touchdowns along with four rushing touchdowns, adding along one kick return touchdown, as well.
A hybrid athlete, Shelton is second in school history in kick return yards with 1,855 and kick returns with 80.
Monty Madaris/Wide Receiver/Cincinnati Bengals
Madaris was a three-year letterwinner at MSU. Over 34 career games, Madaris recorded 413 yards on 31 catches.
In his final season in 2016, Madaris ranked fourth on the team in catches with 24 and receiving yards with 310, which were both career-highs.
Other Spartans include:
Kevin Williams (Defensive Tackle/Cincinnati Bengals)
Tyler O’Connor (Quarterback/Cincinnati Bengals)
Kodi Kieler (Offensive Lineman/Arizona Cardinals)
Brandon Clemons (Offensive Guard/Defensive Tackle/Arizona Cardinals)
Darian Hicks (Cornerback/Chicago Bears)