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Northwestern to the NFL: A recap

In case you missed it, six Northwestern players made headlines over the draft weekend.

NCAA Football: Holiday Bowl-Northwestern vs Utah Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

For the fifth consecutive year, Northwestern has seen members of their roster pick up the phone on draft day and take their talents to the NFL. This year, Northwestern had one such phone call, and it went to none other than the winningest quarterback in school history. Along with Thorson getting selected by the Philadelphia Eagles, Northwestern saw four other players receive their chance as undrafted free agents.

Thorson leaves Northwestern with a stacked résumé: he is the Wildcats all time leader in wins (36), has the most passing yards in program history with 10,731 as well as 61 touchdowns over his four year career. Still, a lot needs to be done before Thorson will get his shot on the gridiron.

The Eagles selected Carson Wentz with the 2nd overall pick in 2016, and since then, he’s been their guy. He posted MVP caliber numbers in 2017 before suffering a season ending ACL injury, and the torch was passed to Nick Foles, who carried the Eagles to a Super Bowl victory. Wentz’s injuries resurfaced, though, towards the end of the 2018 season and Foles yet again closed out the season.

Since then, Foles has been shipped to Jacksonville, and Thorson will go up against former Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld and Luis Perez for the backup position, both winnable battles. With all that being said, Thorson has plenty of room to learn and grow under both Wentz and Head Coach Doug Pederson. If nothing else, at least Thorson got some recognition when his draft video went viral after he denied his brother Luke a hug....twice.

Here’s a full list of the other NU players who made headlines over the weekend as undrafted free agents:

Jordan Thompson - Indianapolis Colts

Thompson will join Northwestern alumn Anthony Walker Jr. in Indianapolis. The big lineman has been a key contributor in the Wildcat defense in each of his four years, appearing in almost every game in his career. He hit a career high of 30 tackles in 2018 and was an integral piece in the success of a Wildcat rush defense that finished 26th in the nation.

Blake Hance - Buffalo Bills

Hance will enjoy continued freezing temperatures as he heads to the Buffalo Bills. The tackle played in all but one game during his time at Northwestern, and in his senior year contributed both to the successes of Thorson and of first year running back Isaiah Bowser, who averaged 108 rushing yards over the last eight games of the season.

Montre Hartage - Miami Dolphins

The First-Team All-Big Ten cornerback was quickly scooped up by the Dolphins after somewhat surprisingly going undrafted. Hartage will look to follow up a spectacular senior season in which he posted 51 tackles, 15 pass breakups and a pair of interceptions. Though he didn’t exactly test off the charts, and Miami has plenty of depth at defensive back, no Northwestern fan would be surprised to see Hartage earn a rotational spot relatively quickly thanks to his innate coverage skills.

Nate Hall - Dallas Cowboys

Hall will take his talents to Dallas and attempt to join Kyle Queiro in Jerry World. The linebacker has been a consistent leader on the defensive side of the ball for the Wildcats, but his ACL injury at the end of the 2017 season had scouts worried. He posted 28 less tackles in the 2018 season, and didn’t earn the same accolades he did in his junior year. Hall will have to prove he can fully return to his old self in order to earn a spot on the 53-man.

Tommy Doles - Chicago Bears

Doles was not signed as a UDFA like the others above him on this list, but received an invite to Bears rookie camp nonetheless. The gregarious guard will stay local, getting a shot this summer after an impressive senior season as the linchpin of Northwestern’s line.

We live for Cinderella stories, especially when our fellow Wildcats are at the heart of them, but the road from undrafted free agency to a professional roster is one of the toughest in sports. Having said that, there are more undrafted free agents on NFL rosters today than 1st and 2nd round picks combined, so there is plenty of hope for our underdogs. And with Tyler Lancaster laying the path last season, anything seems possible.