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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Football

Three Cougars selected during NFL draft


Freshman defensive end Tyus Bowser racked up nine tackles and one and one-half sacks against Rice in the Bayou Bucket. | Justin Tijerina/The Daily Cougar

Tyus Bowser, who was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens, finished 2016 with 47 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks, earning Second Team All-AAC honors. | File photo/The Cougar

NFL Draft weekend has come and gone after a flurry of picks. Young athletes from across the country waited to see if their name was called after years of hard work and months of preparation.

This year’s crop from the Cougars included outside linebacker Tyus Bowser and cornerbacks Howard Wilson and Brandon Wilson.

Now, each player will get to know his respective team and put himself to the test to see if he can make the 53-man roster by the beginning of next season. Of course, a career is in no way guaranteed for these young prospects; just getting a chance is a major feat.

The Baltimore Ravens picked up the first Cougar, Bowser, in the second round.

Bowser was the first to get picked up in the second round by the Baltimore Ravens. General manager Ozzie Newsome looked to bolster his defense by choosing four defensive players with the team’s first four picks.

Bowser was a star before he even joined the Cougars, coming out of high school as a three-star recruit. He chose UH despite having more than 10 offers on the table and shined in the defense.

He finished 2015 with 50 tackles and 5.5 sacks as an outside linebacker. Despite missing five games in 2016, he would see even more production as a pass rusher. His total tackle numbers stayed about the same, at 47, but he added 12 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks.

Head coach John Harbaugh of the Ravens was excited about Bowser when asked about his new pass-rusher.

“Look at the tape. This guy’s motor is hot,” Harbaugh said. “I mean he flies around, gets after the quarterback and is all over the field. He is a versatile player and that’s exactly what we wanted.”

Howard Wilson was next to go in the fourth when the Cleveland Browns traded back into the round and selected him with the 19th pick.

He came back with a vengeance in 2016 and started all 13 games after only playing three games in 2015 before an injury. He is small in stature compared to most NFL prospects, but there is no shortage of heart and determination in the Desoto native.

“I played every play like it could be my last. That’s the way I play football,” Howard Wilson said during a conference call with the team. “Anytime I have the opportunity to get the ball, that’s what I am going to do.”

He will join a Browns team hungry for a season with more than one or two wins. He will be a great fit in a team that desperately needs its young stars to have confidence in themselves.

The last Cougar to be taken in the draft was cornerback Brandon Wilson by the Cincinnati Bengals in the sixth round.

Wilson saw it all pay off when he heard his name called in the sixth round after being projected to go either undrafted or in the late seventh. He made the most of his opportunities and turned a lot of heads during the Cougars’ Pro Day.

“Like they say, the more you can do, the better,” Wilson said to the Houston Chronicle after his workout. “Some teams want me to play defense. Some teams want me to play offense.”

Wilson saw his role expand as a junior and scored multiple touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams. These were not just fluke plays.

Wilson finished his career with the Cougars with 81 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and four sacks.

Although only three Cougars were drafted last weekend, there is still hope for three others who seem determined to make an impact in the NFL.

Tight end Tyler McCloskey is the latest to sign as a undrafted free-agent with San Francisco. Defensive end Cameron Malveaux signed with Miami, and Greg Ward Jr. has signed with Philadelphia. It will be a much steeper climb to the top of the mountain for those who didn’t get drafted.

Time will tell if any of these players will make a lasting impact on a league that has crushed the dreams of so many who think simply getting drafted is enough. Now is the time to watch and see how they carry themselves into the next phase of their lives and prove to all those who have ever doubted them wrong.

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