Gateway grads hope to be in mix at pro level
The NFL Draft will be held May 8 to 10 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
Some Gateway graduates who have wrapped up their collegiate football careers are hoping to be among those whose names are called during the three-day event, which will be televised on ESPN and the NFL Network.
Former Gateway standouts B.J. Stevens (California University of Pennsylvania), Dayonne Nunley (Miami of Ohio), Delbert Tyler (Hampton University), Dorian Bell (Duquesne University) and Corey Brown (Ohio State University) participated in recent pro days to showcase their abilities for NFL scouts.
Stevens, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound linebacker and a 2009 Gateway grad, was among 11 Cal players who worked out for 15 NFL teams March 20. Players ran the 40-yard dash, participated in position work and were tested in a variety of drills similar to those conducted at the NFL Combine.
“It went really well,” said Stevens, who was pleased with his 40 time of 4.73 seconds on a cold, windy day. “Under those conditions, I'd say I'm very happy with how I did.
“The 40 was one of the things I really focused on. The scouts all knew I could pass rush and they knew I was quick, but they didn't think I was fast enough or strong enough, so that's what I focused on the whole time I was training.”
Stevens had a breakout season as a junior, recording 22.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks, both school single-season records. His 1.32 sacks per game led all NCAA Division II players, and he tied for ninth in the country with an average of 2.05 TFLs per game.
Those numbers put Stevens on the radar of opponents going into his senior season last fall.
“Before every snap, especially before passing plays when I knew it was going to be a pass, they would point me out,” Stevens said. “They would slide their line that way or have a tight end stay in or even a running back chip me before he went out into the flat.”
Despite the extra attention, Stevens still managed to record a career-high 61 tackles along with 7.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. He led the Vulcans in sacks and TFLs for the second year in a row, earning First Team All-Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference honors for a second consecutive season.
Stevens finished as Cal's career leader in sacks with 28.
“I'm extremely proud,” he said. “I worked really hard.”
Stevens already has earned a degree in Criminal Justice and is working toward a Masters in Homeland Security. His agent has told him he could be drafted as high as the sixth round or signed as a free agent by an NFL team.
Four PSAC players have been drafted the past four years, among them one of Stevens' former teammates, offensive lineman Eric Kush, who was taken in the sixth round by Kansas City in 2013.
“I'm just thankful to be here. All I really need is a shot just to get into a camp,” he said. “If I get that opportunity, I'll take it from there.”
Nunley is hoping for an opportunity as well, though he realizes his height (5-8) may work against him in the eyes of NFL scouts.
“At the end of the day, I know when I step on the field, I can play with anybody,” said the 2010 Gateway grad.
Nunley proved he could measure up at Miami, where he was a three-time All-Mid-American Conference First Team selection as a defensive back. He finished his career with 13 interceptions — sixth-best in school history — and recorded career totals of 260 tackles and 21.5 TFLs.
Nunley stood out individually on a team that didn't win much after his freshman season, when the RedHawks went 10-4 and won the GoDaddy.com Bowl over Middle Tennessee State.
Miami followed with consecutive 4-8 seasons and went 0-12 in 2013.
“It was tough, but you have to look at your future and what you want to do,” Nunley said. “At the same time you have to focus and say each and every day, each and every practice, I'm going to get better, and each and every game, I'm going to do what I can do for my team and myself because I have goals that I want to accomplish.
“I wish it could have gone a little better as far as team-wise. But this was a great opportunity and a great time in my life. Right now, I'm just working to get to the next level.”
He'll graduate with a degree in Sports Studies and wants to have a career in sports if pro football doesn't work out.
“I've just got to be in the area of sports,” Nunley said. “I definitely would love to be a coach some day.”
As a senior last fall, 2010 Gateway grad Tyler led Hampton and was second in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in tackles with 131 (57 solo), averaging 11.9 stops per game. The 5-11, 225-pound linebacker finished second in school history in tackles with 383.
Tyler had a pro day at the College of William & Mary on March 18 and participated in the NFL regional combine at Indianapolis on March 30. He was limited at both events because he's still rehabbing from a late-season knee injury but was pleased with how he performed.
“I felt like I definitely benefited myself,” Tyler said. “My position drills went real well. I showed them that I have good pass defense skills and I'm a linebacker that can move in space.”
Like his good friend Nunley, Tyler is hoping to overcome questions about his size.
“That's one of the things hurting me right now,” he said. “A lot of teams try to categorize some positions to be a certain height or weight. I feel like at the linebacker position, you can be any size, height-wise.
“Look at Russell Wilson. They said he was too short to be a quarterback, and he won the Super Bowl.”
Tyler doesn't know if he'll be drafted.
“Right now, it looks like free agency,” he said. “My agent is trying to get me a workout with a team. I just want a chance to show I can play.”
Tyler is on track to get his degree in Business Management this summer and may pursue a Masters in Sports Management.
If the NFL falls through, he'll look into other options to play professionally. He'll also consider becoming a graduate assistant somewhere.
“Coaching might be an option some day,” he said.
Bell, a 6-1, 217-pound linebacker, played three seasons for the Dukes after transferring from Ohio State. Last fall, the 2009 Gateway grad was on some pre-season watch lists for national awards following a junior season in which he was named Third Team All-America by the Sports Network and First Team All-Northeast Conference.
In 24 career games at Duquesne, Bell totaled 170 tackles (96 solo), 21.5 TFLs, 9.5 sacks, five forced fumbles and one interception.
Bell took part in a partial workout during Duquesne's pro day on March 3, and 12 NFL teams saw him work out. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.73 and 4.66 seconds.
Duquesne didn't have a place for prospects to do the shuttle runs or three-cone drill, so Bell traveled to Ohio State to perform those drills.
Waiting to meet Bell at Ohio State's pro day was Brown, one of 17 Buckeyes to take part in the annual event for scouts, and many high-profile scouts were in attendance.
Brown, a 2009 Gateway grad, is a 6-1, 201-pound fifth-year senior defensive back for Ohio State. He helped the Buckeyes go 12-2 in 2013, earning a berth in the Discover Orange Bowl, where they lost to Clemson, 40-35.
The four-year letter-winner saw action in 14 games his final season, finishing sixth on the team with 55 tackles — 22 unassisted — and getting one tackle for loss and one interception.
Bell and Brown were unable to be reached for comment.
All five former Gators were members of the Gateway teams that went a combined 23-3 in 2007 and 2008, losing in the WPIAL Class AAAA title game both seasons. Nunley and Tyler also played on Gateway's 2009 team that went 12-1 and reached the WPIAL finals.
Dave Schrecengost is a freelance writer.
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