It was 254 up, 254 down for Northwestern at the NFL Draft, as nobody took anybody from the ten-win Wildcats - in part because not that many key pieces graduated, in part because the NFL is dumb and took four dudes from an Illinois team that won two games, and in part because Pat Fitzgerald is a good coach. As we wrote shortly after Northwestern's pro day, this was to be expected.
But its undrafted free agent time! The part of the year when after fretting and panty-bunching over 254 players being selected, somewhere around 500 sign with NFL squads with virtually no fanfare, because most guys don't have a shot of making the team. Four NU dudes are trying out with NFL teams - Patrick Ward, Brian Arnfelt, David Nwabuisi, Demetrius Fields - the reporting here is from the Daily and Inside NU.
Brian Arnfelt, Pittsburgh Steelers
Typically I laugh at anybody who unironically writes "#blessed" on Twitter, but Arnfelt gets a pass here. Also, Twitter ruined the sentence "I'm a Pittsburgh Steeler" by making it "I'm a Pittsburgh @steelers", but such is the internet. Now we can all run to the store and buy this jersey:
This is the most expected one - Arnfelt put up 38 reps at Northwestern's pro day, and there was no way NFL teams were going to pass on a guy with that much strength.
I think there's a nice fit here. For starters, the Steelers have already made something out of a Northwestern undrafted free agent tackle: they added Corbin Bryant in the days after the draft in 2011, and he hung on their roster for about 1.5 years, playing in one game and constantly bouncing back and forth between the active roster and the practice squad, which all things told, is a good result from a UDFA looking to earn some paychecks. Now Bryant is a more official member of the Buffalo Bills, which is nice. Like Bryant, the Steelers list Arnfelt as a 3-4 defensive end rather than a nose tackle, which makes sense.
Patrick Ward, Miami Dolphins
I'm super excited to join the @miamidolphins!!! So thankful for the opportunity and can't wait to make the most of it!— Patrick Ward (@PatrickWard70) April 28, 2013
Nice to see Northwestern's first four-star recruit in forever years turn into an NFL player, even if it is fringey. Ward hasn't been listed in any rundown of Dolphins' signees, but he makes it sound official. The Dolphins' backup left tackle is currently Jeff Adams, a practice squad guy from Columbia, so Ward has a shot of hanging if he plays his cards right. (He could also shift to RT, where he played his freshman year, or a guard spot.)
Demetrius Fields, Chicago Bears
Glory to God... Trusting that his will be done...Thanks for all the support and thanks to the Chicago Bears for extending an invite to camp— Demetrius Fields (@King_Fields_) April 28, 2013
The Bears have always had a knack for bringing in Northwestern dudes. One the one hand, it's because there's an understanding between the coaching staffs, and the Bears have seen Northwestern pump out guys that have turned into quality players for them - Sherrick McManis, Corey Wootton, and Nick Roach were on the roster in 2012, which is a pretty high percentage of all the Northwestern players in the NFL.
On the other, I like just picturing there's a secretary somewhere who's constantly griping about how much money the team shells out on plane tickets for guys who have no shot of making the roster. "Do we really have to sign a dude from New Mexico State? DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD IT IS TO FIND A DIRECT FLIGHT FROM ALBUQUERQUE TO CHICAGO?" It's a lot easier when you can just give a guy an El pass. They've brought in guys like C.J. Bacher, Zeke Markshausen, and Eric Peterman at times, and only Peterman came close to sniffing the final cut.
This would seem to fit that - it's just a camp invite. Fields would have a real uphill battle at making the roster, but that's what this is all about, right?
David Nwabuisi, Carolina Panthers
Preciate all the support.........I'll have an opportunity to continue my football career with the Carolina Panthers...cont— David Nwabuisi (@Nwabuisi33) April 28, 2013
This also means nobody called for two other guys who were on the fringe of UDFA-dom, Quinn Evans and Quentin Williams. Bummer for them, but the phones are still active in offices around the league, so who knows.