When the 2014 NFL Draft concludes on Saturday, May 10, the Ball State Cardinals could wind up with the most players taken out of a MAC school this year. While Buffalo is going to have the highest player taken (Mack), and NIU is going to have the most famous player taken (Lynch), Ball State has three players with legit shots of hearing their names called in the late rounds. Keith Wenning, Willie Snead and Jonathan Newsome (if taken) would be just the latest in a long line of Cardinals taken in the NFL Draft.
Interestingly enough, the Cardinals Draft history is full of years where more than one player was taken. From 1968 when a pair of offensive lineman went, to 1976 when Ball State's highest drafted player ever (Shafer Suggs) went alongside another defensive player from Muncie, and even more recently in 2005 (3 Ball State players were taken) and 2009 (two players were taken).
But since former Cardinal QB Nate Davis was taken 171st overall in the 2009 NFL Draft, Ball State's been missing from the Draft. That four consecutive Drafts without a single Ball St. player hearing their name called. It's not the longest drought in program history (1980-1992 is) but it's surprising considering some for the talent that's came and went through Scheumann Stadium over the course of the past few seasons.
But what of those guys who were Drafted? How did they fare in the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE (/Merril Hoge voice)? Let's start with the team's most recent Draftees, Davis and offensive tackle Robert Brewster.
Until recently, Davis was the best quarterback in Ball State history. He left for the NFL a season early, and was taken in the fifth round by the San Francisco 49ers. Remember, this was back when Alex Smith was still struggling to figure out how to succeed at the NFL. By all accounts, this seemed like a solid move. Davis was raw, sure, but he had potential, and damn could he chuck the ball downfield.
Except that potential never came to fruition. He showed flashes of the potential that got him drafted, but a year after being drafted he was cut by the 49ers. For the next two seasons he spent time with the Seahawks and Colts, but never made it into a regular season game. He spent a few games in the AFL in 2012, where he struggled, before winding up in the Lone Star Football League. He found success with the Amarillo Venom, leading the team to a league title in his first season with the team in 2012.
Brewster was a third round pick the same year as Davis. A hulking tackle he seemed destined to make an impact on a Cowboys roster that had struggled on the offensive line. But trouble followed Brewster's time in Dallas. Poor production got him cut midway through the 2010 season. In 2011, despite being out of the league, the NFL slapped Brewster with a one year suspension for violating the substance abuse policy.
Back in 2005 a trio of players were selected, with only punter Reggie Hodges finding some success. It took him awhile to catch on. He was cut by the Rams part of the way into his first season, then played out the rest of the year with Philadelphia. The next four seasons saw two whole years where Hodges didn't play, and another two where he bounced from practice squad to practice squad, occasionally getting to play some games to replace the injured starter. In 2010 he signed with the Browns and had a fantastic season, notching just under 3,500 punting yards that year. He tore his achilles and missed the 2011 season, but responded in 2012 (his final season) with his best season ever-notching 3,766 yards and a 41.8 yards-per-punt average.
Interestingly enough, the guy who filled in for Hodges in Cleveland in 2011 is another Ball State punter, and the last Cardinal taken before the 2005 Draft class, Brad Maynard. Maynard was taken in the third round of 1997 by the Giants, and went on to have one fo the best pro careers of any Cardinal ever.
He spent 15 years in the league between New York, Chicago and Cleveland, topping 3,000 punting yards and 40-yards-per-punt in each of those years. He led the league in punting yards three times (including his first two seasons in the league). His rookie season saw him set multiple records, including: most punts by a rookie (111), most punt yards by a rookie (4,531) and most punts in the Super Bowl.
Four years before Maynard was taken in the Draft, former Ball State defensive back Blaine Bishop was selected in the eighth round by the Houston Oilers. Bishop, who was only 5-foot-9, turned out a highly successful career. He earned Pro Bowl status four times in his 10-year career, totaled 546 tackles (the most by any Ball State player in the NFL) and earning a reputation as one fo the hardest hitting safeties in the league.
While a total of seven players were taken between 1993 and 1975 (there was a 12-year drought from 1980 until a year before Bishop was selected), none really caught on in the NFL. You have to go to 1974 or earlier to find the successful Ball State pros.
In 1974 Terry Schmidt was taken in the fifth round by the Saints, and while he ne never achieved All-Pro status in his 11 seasons in the league, we was quite an effective shutdown corner, amassing 26 career interceptions.
The Cardinals didn't join the MAC until 1973, but by that time had already seen eight players drafted. Several of those players had nice careers in the NFL, including Timothy Brown. Taken by the Green Bay Packers in the 27th round of the 1959 NFL Draft, Brown wound up becoming a 3-time pro bowler in his nine years in the NFL as a running back and kick returner. Brown's versatility, and ability to catch balls out of the backfield, made him a player before his time. He was putting up just shy of 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving long before the likes of Marshall Faulk made receiving running backs cool. All told he amassed 12,042 yards and 62 touchdowns between rushing, receiving and kickoff returns.
While Ball State's found some success in getting players drafted, those haven't had a ton of impact in the NFL. Can one of the Cardinals' 3 Draft hopefuls break the Draft drought and change that statement?