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Former Cougars make waves in the pros

Daniel Poncedeleon was named C-USA pitcher of the week. | Courtesy of UH Athletics

Alumnus Daniel Poncedeleon has come back stronger than ever after suffering serious injury by a line drive to the head. | Courtesy of UH Athletics

Houston’s athletic talent was again on display early this month when four baseball players joined an extensive list of Cougars with pro-league ambitions.

Senior Joey Pulido and juniors Trey Cumbie and Aaron Fletcher became the newest members of the prestigious club when they were selected in the 2018 MLB Draft.

The two left-handers, Cumbie and Fletcher, went to the Tampa Bay Rays and the Washington Nationals, respectively. Pulido was picked in the 32nd round by Toronto.

First basemen Connor Hollis also signed with Tampa Bay as an undrafted free agent, joining Cumbie in the minors. Both will join a fellow Cougar who made his MLB debut just a year ago, Austin Pruitt.

Pruitt led the 2013 Cougars in wins, ERA, innings pitched and strikeouts before joining the Rays’ farm system.

Pruitt climbed from A, to AA, to AAA in his first four seasons before making the Rays’ 2017 Opening Day roster, where he still plays as a reliever.

Pitcher Daniel Poncedeleon is another former Cougar who recently made it to the major leagues. He was teammates with Pruitt in 2013 before getting drafted in 2014 by the St. Louis Cardinals.

By May 2017, Poncedeleon had worked his way up to AAA, but during a game against the Iowa Cubs he was struck by a line drive in the head and was temporarily paralyzed.

Poncedeleon regained movement in the following days and was training again just three months later.

On June 11, over a year after having to undergo emergency surgery on his brain, Poncedeleon was called up to the majors, though he was sent back down a few days later after not being used.

The NFL has one of the more notable former Cougars, NFL quarterback Case Keenum, who just came off a career year with the Minnesota Vikings. Keenum landed in Minnesota after a string of cuts, trades and sidelines, but he found a team where he excelled.

With Keenum at the reigns, the Vikings orchestrated the Minneapolis Miracle, a last-second 61-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs that sent the team to its first NFC title game in eight years.

Minnesota went on to lose the NFC Championship, but Keenum’s performance was enough to garner interest from a team in need of a quarterback. He left Minnesota in March to join Denver for $36 million over the next two seasons.

Linebacker Matthew Adams was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in April. Adams recorded 259 total tackles and forced five fumbles in his collegiate career. He could be a solution for the Colts’ defense, which was No. 30 in points and yards allowed per game.

Although all these athletes are a long way from becoming household names in the pros, they have the advantage of coming from the same powerhouse that shaped legendary Olympians, the highest-flying rim-rattlers in basketball history and plenty more.

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