Talented Bobcats squads produced several pros in the last half decade, led by three defenders drafted by the NFL.
The Bobcats have enjoyed a lot of success over the past five years, winning three-straight bowls from 2017-2019, while having some of the most productive offenses in the FBS, finishing in the top 20 in scoring offense in three of those seasons.
That success garnered interest from pro programs, where former ‘Cats have found a home. For instance, there are undrafted Bobbies on NFL rosters, including S Javon Hagan, who played in the 2021 NFC championship game and won a Super Bowl ring with Tampa Bay before being released and signed by the Arizona Cardinals. Former Bobcat OT Austen Pleasants spent the 2020 season and part of the 2021 season with the Jacksonville Jaguars on the practice squad before being released, then signed and briefly assigned to the active roster by the Carolina Panthers late in 2021.
Multiple former ‘Cats since 2017 have also landed in the Canadian Football League. QB Nathan Rourke was drafted in the second round (15th overall) of the 2020 CFL Draft and took over starting responsibilities from league legend Mike Reiley midway through 2021. RB AJ Ouellette enters his third season in 2022 with the Toronto Argonauts, while former Bobcat WR Papi White is coming off a season which included a game-altering 92-yard punt return for score in the playoffs for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. DT Casey Sayles made strong contributions to Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ 2021 Grey Cup championship, where he recorded 28 tackles and 5 sacks, and also had a successful stint with the AAF’s Birmingham Iron in 2010.
But of all the former ‘Cats entering the pros in the last five seasons, the three drafted by the NFL trace back to the 2016 squad, the last one to reach the MAC title game. That push in 2016 was largely due to a staunch defense ranked statistically among the best in the FBS: 5th in rushing defense (104 yards per game), 18th in turnovers (26 total), and 26th in scoring defense (22.6 points per game.)
Three of those former defensive staples from Ohio’s 2016 MAC East Championship team would go on to hear their name called in the NFL Draft.
With the 2022 NFL Draft nearly here, we take a look back at those players, where and when they were drafted, and how they have fared so far.
EDGE Tarell Basham
Drafted: 2017, third round, 80th overall, Indianapolis Colts
NFL Career Stats: 114 tackles, 34 QB hits, 11 sacks, 7 PDs, 5 FFs, 1 INT over 75 games
Basham enters his sixth NFL season as player on the rise.
Basham played just over one season with the Colts before being waived in the fall of 2018 when he was claimed by the NY Jets, finishing his first two NFL seasons with 12 tackles, 6 QB hits, and 2 sacks. Basham appeared with the Jets in 2019-20, where he started hitting his stride, appearing in 32 games before signing a two-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys covering 2021 and 2022.
The last two seasons have been statistically his most productive, as he logged 70 total tackles, 24 QB hits, and 7 sacks in 2020-21. With increased productivity leading up to 2022. Basham appears poised to make next season his best yet, an ideal situation heading into the last year of a contract.
LB Blair Brown
Drafted: 2017, fifth round, 148th overall, Jacksonville Jaguars
Brown played two seasons for the Jags, appearing in 28 games, with 17 tackles and a forced fumble before being released in May 2019. Shortly after his release from Jacksonville, Brown faced legal charges in 2019 but the charges were ultimately dropped.
Brown worked out with the Houston Texans in 2020, and currently is on the roster of the USFL’s Pittsburgh Maulers.
LB Quentin Poling
Drafted: 2018, seventh round, 227th overall, Miami Dolphins
Poling was a two-time, First-Team All-MAC selection for the Bobcats and historically one of Ohio’s most productive defenders since 1975, finishing first in solo tackles during that time (219) and second in tackles for loss with 43.5.
Poling played his first season on the Dolphins’ practice squad, signing a futures contract in 2019 and ultimately being waived-injured during the final cuts.
The former Bobcat star signed with the then Oakland Raiders’ practice squad in the fall of 2019, was promoted to the active roster in November 2019, but was ultimately released.
Poling signed with the Atlanta Falcons and the newly-minted Las Vegas Raiders again before moving on to Minnesota and New Orleans in 2020 and 2021, respectively, being waived/injured from both programs.
He has since retired from football, and is now an exercise physiologist in Ohio.