Jayhawks prepare for start of NFL Training Camps
LAWRENCE, Kan. – As July nears its end and football season inches closer, nine players who once donned the Crimson and Blue prepare for training camp in the NFL at the end of the month.
Safety Darrell Stuckey (2006-09) is set to embark on his eighth year with the Chargers organization when he starts camp on July 29 in Costa Mesa, California. Despite being drafted by the Chargers in 2010 and continuing to play for the organization, Stuckey will face a slight adjustment as the team transitions to its new home in Los Angeles.
A 2014 Pro Bowl selection and 2015 Chargers Special Teams Player of the Year, Stuckey played in all 16 games for the Chargers in 2016, recording 11 tackles (10 solo) and recovering one fumble.
Cornerback Brandon Stewart (2015-16) will join Stuckey in Costa Mesa with the Chargers for his first NFL training camp. Recording 25 tackles (22 solo) in 2016 for the Jayhawks and making a huge pick-six with 1:12 left in regulation that helped Kansas go on to beat Texas 24-21 overtime in the final home game of the season, Stewart will look to make a name for himself in the professional ranks after going undrafted.
Members of the 2008 Orange Bowl-winning Kansas team and the Super Bowl 50-winning Denver Broncos, cornerbacks Chris Harris Jr. (2007-10) and Aqib Talib (2005-07) are set to start their fourth season together as members of the Broncos, starting training camp July 26 in Englewood, Colorado.
Harris Jr. will begin his seventh season with the team after signing with the team as an undrafted free agent in 2011, while Talib commences his 10th season in the NFL, spending time with Tampa Bay (2008-12) and New England (2012-13) before signing with Denver as an unrestricted free agent in 2014.
The duo played a major part in the Broncos’ league-leading passing defense, holding opponents to just 185.8 yards per game as a team.
Harris Jr. was named a first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press in 2016 and was voted to his third consecutive Pro Bowl, finishing the season with 63 tackles (57 solo), two interceptions (36 yds.), 11 passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Talib also earned Associated Press All-Pro first-team honors and was named to his fourth-consecutive Pro Bowl in 2016, posting 43 tackles (32 solo), three interceptions (86 yds., 1 TD) and 12 passes defensed.
Joining Stuckey, Stewart, Harris Jr., and Talib in the AFC West, Oakland Raiders Ben Heeney (2011-14) and Dexter McDonald (2011-14) will start their third season together in Oakland at training camp in Napa, California on July 28.
Heeney played in the first four games of the 2016 season, starting two contests, before suffering a season-ending ankle injury. In his 2015 rookie campaign, Heeney played in 15 games with three starts, posting 38 tackles (31 solo), 2.5 sacks, one pass defensed and one forced fumble.
McDonald has played in six games in each of the last two seasons, recording a total of six tackles.
Sixth-year NFL veteran Steven Johnson (2008-11) is set to begin his second season with the Pittsburgh Steelers at training camp in Latrobe, Pennsylvania on July 27. After spending the first three seasons of his career with the Denver Broncos and one season with the Titans, Johnson played in six games for the Steelers in 2016 before being placed on injured reserve after suffering an ankle injury in week 10 of the season. Johnson posted six tackles (five solo) and forced one fumble prior to his season-ending injury.
Fish Smithson (2014-16) is embarking on his rookie season in the NFL after signing with the Washington Redskins as an undrafted free agent. Smithson led the nation in solo tackles (87) as a junior for the Jayhawks in 2015, earning him an All-Big 12 second team selection. Posting 93 tackles (70 solo), 1.0 sack, four interceptions, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery in 2016, Smithson earned All-Big 12 First Team honors.
Bradley McDougald (2009-12) is headed to Renton, Washington to join the Seattle Seahawks for training camp starting July 29, after signing with the team in the offseason. McDougald began his NFL career with the Kansas City Chiefs by signing as an undrafted free agent. Appearing in just one game for the Chiefs in his rookie season (2013), McDougald finished the year as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he played through the 2016 season. Last year was his most productive in the NFL, posting 91 tackles (79 solo), two interceptions, 10 passes defensed and one fumble recovery.
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