Twelve former Huskies make initial NFL rosters for 2017

In this Jan. 7, 2017, file photo, file photo, Oakland Raiders quarterback Connor Cook (8) is hit by Houston Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (90) during the second half of an AFC Wild Card NFL football game, in Houston. The Texans play their first game of the season on Sept. 10 against Jacksonville. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

With the season set to open on Sept. 7, the official cut down to finalized 53-man rosters took place over the weekend. Now with a new season beginning, several former Huskies will grace NFL rosters hoping to make an impact.

Starting on opening night, Kansas City at New England, fullback Anthony Sherman will begin his seventh season in the NFL and fifth with the Chiefs after spending his first two years in Atlanta.

Elsewhere, the Houston Texans have a pair of former UConn teammates in tight end Ryan Griffin and running back Jordan Todman. Todman has been with several franchises in his career, most recently cut by the New York Jets this preseason, and brings special teams skills. Griffin saw a sharp uptick in both receptions and targets last season, accumulating 442 yards and two touchdowns.

Andrew Adams, who made an impact as an undrafted free-agent in the New York Giants’ defensive backfield, was retained after 31 tackles and one interception last year.

In Arizona, Tyvon Branch will take on his 10th NFL season in the talented Cardinals’ defensive backfield. Branch only played in six games last season for Arizona.

In Oakland, combine killer and 2017 second round pick Obi Melifonwu unsurprisingly made the Raiders defense as a safety. Melifonwu missed chunks of time this preseason due to injury.

Shamar Stephen, a 6-foot-5-inch, 310-pound defensive tackle, is going to spend his fourth consecutive NFL season with the Minnesota Vikings. In 16 games last year, he had 17 tackles and recovered a fumble while clogging up the middle.

Like Houston, reigning NFC Champions Atlanta have two Huskies on their initial roster. It will be wide receiver Nick Williams fourth NFL season and third in Atlanta; last year he had a meager five receptions on only seven targets in the Falcons’ productive offense. On defense, the Falcons have cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson who played a total of two snaps in a week 15 game for the teams last year after being injured.

Also a cornerback in the NFC South, Robert McClain made the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster for what will be his sixth NFL season. McClain has spent several seasons with divisional rivals Atlanta and the Carolina Panthers, including 11 games for the Panthers last season.

The Indianapolis Colts and cornerback Darius Butler are no strangers to each other; this will be his sixth season with the team after spending the beginning of his career with the New England Patriots after being their second-round pick in 2009. The 31-year-old had three interceptions in 11 games last year.

Lastly, the most prominent face for UConn in the NFL, Dallas Cowboys defensive back Byron Jones, will see increased reps as the 2014 first round pick continues to progress in his development towards NFL standout. An athletic specimen, Jones started 16 games for Dallas last year, producing 73 solo tackles and an interception.

Several notable Huskies, such as quarterback Dan Orlovsky and 2016 star Noel Thomas, were cut, by the Rams and Lions respectively, but will have opportunities to return after injuries and/or by being added to a practice squad roster.

For example, Geremy Davis, the former standout receiver, has already done so in Los Angeles. Davis played in three games last year for then-San Diego but posted no receiving statistics and had a marginal role on the New York Giants in 2015.


Matt Barresi is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at matthew.barresi@uconn.edu.