Going Pro

School-record: Three Ferris grads make NFL opening day rosters

Three former Bulldogs find themselves on NFL rosters after surviving final cuts this past weekend.

Wide receiver Malik Taylor earned himself a spot on the Green Bay Packers roster while former defensive end Zach Sieler made the Miami Dolphins roster. Former star cornerback Tavierre Thomas found himself on the Cleveland Browns roster for the third straight season.

Taylor was one of five wideouts who was looking to earn the fifth spot on the Packers depth chart. This will be Taylor’s second season in the league, and he’ll have a chance to make a name for himself this year on the Packers’ roster which currently isn’t strong at the wide receiver position.

Sieler is set to begin his second season in Miami after finishing in South Beach last season. He is one of four defensive tackles on the roster and is expected to have an expanded role this season.

Thomas has made a name for himself on special teams over the course of the last two seasons since joining the Browns in 2018. Thomas has racked up 16 special teams’ tackles over the past two seasons, in addition to blocking a field goal and averaging 20.4 yards on kick returns over the 2018-19 seasons. As a special teams’ fixture, Thomas will look to improve upon the career-high nine special teams’ tackles he registered in 2019.

In addition to these three, two other Bulldogs found their way onto practice squads to open the 2020 NFL season. Former defensive tackle Justin Zimmer snatched a spot on the Buffalo Bills practice squad while former Gene Upshaw Trophy winner Austin Edwards latched on with the Atlanta Falcons after signing with the team as an undrafted free agent back in April.

Zimmer was cut by the Bills in their final cuts before signing a contract to join their practice squad this past Sunday. Zimmer spent last season with the Browns as a teammate to Thomas before signing with the Bills this offseason.

Two-time Harlon Hill Trophy winner Jason Vander Laan was another former Bulldog expected to compete for an active roster spot before he decided to opt out of the 2020 season earlier this summer due to COVID-19 concerns.

Overall, there were seven former Bulldogs that spent time with NFL organizations this offseason when you include former linebacker Brady Sheldon, who was waived by the Cincinnati Bengals earlier this month. This was the most of any NCAA Division II college in the nation.

All these players played critical roles back when they were starting here in Big Rapids and will now look to continue to make names for themselves as pros. For most of them, they have taken the first step, now they just have to continue to capitalize.