Utah talent taken in NFL

Gage Versteeg, Sports Editor

The National Football League (NFL) was good for local Utah college and high schools. Many players were taken or signed undrafted free agent deals shortly after the draft. It is nice to see the talent in this state get recognized. A total of eight players were drafted from Utah colleges. Another was drafted who attended a Utah high school. Many signed contracts who were not drafted as well from nearly every Utah college with a football program.
The first player taken was Utah State Quarterback Jordan Love, who was selected in the first round,26th overall, by the Green Bay Packers. Love had one of the best seasons for a USU QB of all time during the 2018 season. He had a little bit of a down year in 2019 but the team had a lot of new pieces and coaching from the previous year and many believed that was a key contributor to his down year. He now has a chance to learn from one of the greatest of all-time in Aaron Rodgers, before he gets his own chance to lead the team.
Despite not having a player taken in the first round, the University of Utah had the most players taken out of the state of Utah with seven. Their seven players lead the Pac-12 Conference and were tied with Clemson, Florida, and Georgia for fifth in the nation. The seven was the second most selected in Utah history, behind the eight in the 2017 Draft. Cornerback Jaylon Johnson was the first taken in the second round, 50th overall. He was a great corner for the Utes and one of the highest high school recruits to sign here. Next was Julian Blackmon, who went in the third round, 85th overall, to the Indianapolis Colts. Blackmon was a CB for Utah until his senior year where he transitioned to a safety and had a good year at the new spot. He also went to Layton High School. The next pick was Zack Moss, who owns just about every Running back record for Utah. He has a chance to play alongside Devin Singletary, a speedy RB drafted last year, with the Buffalo Bills. Safety Terrell Burgess was the fourth to go, he went in the third round, 104th overall, to the Los Angeles Rams. He has a shot at being the starting slot corner next season. Defensive Tackle Leki Fotu, a Herriman High alumni, was the next Ute to go when he was picked in the fourth round, 114th overall, by the Arizona Cardinals. Utah’s career sack leader Bradlee Anae went to the Dallas Cowboys with the 179th pick, the last of the fifth round. And last but not least DT John Penisini went to the Detroit Lions in the sixth round with the 197th pick. Penisni went to fellow Region two school West Jordan. No other college had a player drafted, however, Safety out of Notre Dame and Los Angeles Chargers sixth round pick, Alohi Gilman, went to Orem High before moving to Hawaii.
Other players were signed as undrafted free agents shortly after the draft ended. BYU S Dayan Ghanwoloku, a Northridge High alumni, signed with the Los Angeles Rams with WR Aleva Hifo signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. RB Ty’Son Williams, who transferred from South Carolina, is signing with the Baltimore Ravens, and has a chance to make the team who runs the ball more often than anyone else in the league.
Utah had five more players sign these contracts to make it 12 who could be on rosters next year if the five were to make the team. QB Tyler Huntley also signed with the Ravens. He has a chance to sit behind Lamar Jackson, the reigning MVP who is the ultimate dual threat QB. CB Javelin Guidry, who ran one of the fastest 40-yard dashes in history at the NFL Scouting Combine, signed with the New York Jets. OT Darrin Paulo signed with the New Orleans Saints and CB Josh Nurse will be following Huntly to Baltimore. LB Francis Bernard, who spent one season with the Utes after transferring from BYU, signed with Dallas and could once again be teammates with Bradlee Anae.
Utah State had four players sign contracts. Defensive End Tipa Galeai is heading to the Green Bay Packers. Kicker Dominik Eberle signed with the Las Vegas Raiders. Kickers have higher chances to make the roster as fewer are drafted so many start out as UDFA. WR and former Utah Ute, Siaosi Mariner also joined the Raiders. TE Caleb Repp, also a Utah transfer, signed with the Atlanta Falcons. To round out the players taken from Utah schools, Weber State DE Jonah Williams signed with the Ram. LA could potentially have representatives from three Utah schools on their roster with Burgess, Ghanwoloku, and Williams.
Two more players played high school football here in Utah but went to another state for college. One being former Corner Canyon and Ohio State OT Brandon Bowen, who signed with the Carolina Panthers. The last one being one of our own alumni Noah Togiai, who played Tight End at Oregon State, being one of six TEs in their history to amass 1,000 career receiving yards. He signed with the Philadelphia Eagles and has a shot to be just the sixth Hunter Alum to play in the NFL and first since Tre’Von Johnson in 2018. Congrats to Noah and everyone else who’s dreams are being realized in the last few days.