Dec 4, 2012

Former Bearcats Coming Up Big for Pro Teams

Connor Barwin #98 of the Houston Texans sacks
Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens for a safety
on October 21, 2012 at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas.
(October 20, 2012 - Source: Thomas B. Shea/
Getty Images North America)
Ten bowl games in thirteen years…Four conference championships and two BCS bowl games in the past five seasons…Four 10-win seasons over the past five years…No matter how you look at it, UC’s football program continues to prove itself as one of the most competitive in the nation – including the impressive roster of former Bearcats who now make a living playing on Sundays.

Check out our midseason rundown of NFL players who got their start on the Clifton gridiron and see what they’ve been up to so far this season:

Connor Barwin – Barwin was a key defensive leader for the Bearcats during his senior season – even though it was his first on the defensive side of the ball, as he previously played tight end during his college and high school career.

Now, he’s a run-stuffing, pass-rushing force for the Texans, with 31 tackles, two sacks, one fumble recovery and four passes defended through the first twelve games of the season. One of those sacks also resulted in Connor’s first NFL points – a safety of Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco in the Texans’ week 7 win.

With the Texans sporting one of the best records (and defenses) in the league, Barwin looks to be playing deep into January as the Texans seek out their first-ever Super Bowl appearance.

Armon Binns – Many fans remember Binns making one of the biggest catches in UC history, diving across a snowy end zone to haul in the game-winning score with one minute left against Pitt at the end of the 2009 season.
Alfonzo Dennard #37 of the New England Patriots tackles
Isaiah Pead #24 of the St. Louis Rams during the NFL
International Series match between the New England
Patriots and the St. Louis Rams at Wembley Stadium on
October 28, 2012 in London, England. (October 27, 2012 -
Source: Scott Heavey/Getty Images Europe)

Now, he’s found a home with the Cincinnati Bengals alongside former Bearcat Kevin Huber, and is working his way into the professional ranks and learning from Pro-Bowl teammate A.J. Green.

Binns has played in eight games so far (including five starts) and has caught 18 passes for 210 yards. He also scored his first NFL touchdown against the Washington Redskins during the Bengals’ 38-31 week 3 win.

Kevin Huber – During the Bearcats’ run at their first BIG EAST Championship in 2008, their stifling defense – along with punter Kevin Huber’s ability to pin opposing teams deep in their own territory – made scoring points a tall order.

Huber continues to excel at consistently punting the ball deep, and now helps the Cincinnati Bengals win the field position battle through the kicking game. So far in 2012, Huber has played in all twelve games and has punted 55 times for a 46.9-yard average and a net average of 41.7 yards.

He has also placed 24 of his 55 punts inside the 20-yard line, and kicked a season long 69-yarder late in the fourth quarter of the Bengals’ week 11 win against Kansas City.

Isaiah Pead – Many people felt the St. Louis Rams landed a steal when UC’s third all-time leading rusher and 2011 BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year was drafted in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

While he’s still learning the ropes of the NFL and remains behind an incredibly successful rusher in Steven Jackson, Pead continues to make progress and prepare for his moment in the spotlight. And in the meantime, he’s picked up a new skill: returning kickoffs.

So far, Pead has played in eleven games this season, including one start, and has caught three passes for sixteen yards, rushed four times for 33 yards and returned ten kicks for 212 yards.

Haruki Nakamura – One of the anchors of the Bearcats’ 2008 BIG EAST Champion defense, Nakamura went from one electrifying defense to another when he was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens.

Now, Nakamura plays free safety for the Carolina Panthers – and is bringing the lessons he’s learned over the years to a team where he can build a new tradition for defensive excellence.
Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots is
sacked by Derek Wolfe #95 of the Denver Broncos
in the second half at  Gillette Stadium on October
7, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
 (October 6, 2012 - Source: Jim Rogash/Getty
Images North America)

Nakamura has started in each of the Panthers' twelve games this season and has tallied 51 tackles. He’s also recorded two interceptions: one in a 30-28 thriller against the Atlanta Falcons in week 4, and the other in a 27-21 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week 11.

Derek Wolfe  – One of the leaders of last year’s defensive unit went to the Denver Broncos in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft, and he’s wasted no time making his presence known – even though most of the headlines in Denver are about the resurgence of quarterback Peyton Manning.

Wolfe has started all twelve games this season for the Broncos and has totaled 32 tackles, along with three sacks. Wolfe's three sacks rank third among rookie defensive lineman this season.

Trent Cole – The Philadelphia Eagles have become a regional alumni network of their own, with four former Bearcats – Cole, Brent Celek, Mardy Gilyard and Jason Kelce (who is on injured reserve for the year) recently playing for the team.

Since joining the Eagles in the 2005 NFL Draft, Cole has tallied 70 regular season sacks, which ranks him third all-time in Eagles history behind legends Reggie White and Clyde Simmons. He’s also played in nine playoff games and has established himself as a veteran leader and fan favorite.

Cole has started all ten of the Eagles’ games and has totaled 26 tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble this year.

Brent Celek – Since joining the Eagles in 2007, Celek has been a durable part of the offense, playing in every regular season game during that span and also enjoying success in the postseason.

Tight end Brent Celek #87 of the Philadelphia
Eagles leaps over safety Ed Reed #20 for a
first down in the third quarter during a game
 at Lincoln Financial Field on September 16
 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles
defeated the Ravens 24-23.
(September 15, 2012 - Source: Rich Schultz/
Getty Images North America)
In fact, Celek caught ten passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns in the 2008 NFC Championship Game against the Arizona Cardinals, and his 19 catches during the Eagles’ 2008 playoff run are the third-most all-time for a tight end.

So far this season, Celek has started all twelve of the Eagles' games and has 601 receiving yards and one touchdown on 50 receptions.

Mardy Gilyard – Sadly, Mardy was cut by the Eagles just over two weeks ago. Gilyard played in six games this season and has returned two punts for 15 yards, and had three special teams tackles.

Here’s to hoping he can find another home in the NFL soon.

John Hughes – Hughes was a force on defense last year and kept getting better as the season went on, totaling 27 tackles and four sacks during UC’s final five games of the 2011 season.

His inspired play and performance at the NFL combine inspired the Cleveland Browns to select him in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft, and he’s gotten right to work bolstering their defense in one of the league’s toughest divisions.

Hughes has played in each of the Browns' twelve games this season, earning two starts, and has tallied 25 tackles and two sacks.

More Cats on the Prowl in the NFL

Adrien Robinson – New York Giants/Tight End: Robinson has played in two games this season.

Mike Windt – San Diego Chargers/Long Snapper: Windt has played in ten of the Chargers' games this season.

Jeff Linkenbach – Indianapolis Colts/Tackle: Linkenbach has played in all twelve of the Colts' games this season, including six starts.

Ricardo Mathews – Indianapolis Colts/ Defensive Tackle: Mathews has played in all twelve games this season, including one start, and has totaled 11 tackles.

J.K. Schaeffer – Though Schaeffer was cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars shortly before the start of the 2012 NFL season, he has been signed to the Cincinnati Bengals’ practice squad as a reserve linebacker.

Keep up with your favorite Bearcats all season by checking out the UC Athletics website’s coverage of Bearcats in the NFL!

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