Who made the final cut? BYU Cougs in the NFL, 2016 edition.

pro_trackerAfter four weeks of pre-season action the rosters have been finalized for NFL teams, as regular season play kicks off tonight.  Since Kaufusi went to the Ravens in the third round of the 2016 draft at least 20 Cougs were either signed or invited to participate in mini-camps.  Unfortunately, most of those rookie Cougars were cut prior to tonight’s kickoff.  The following are the status and brief summaries for each of the twenty BYU alumni who went out for an NFL team this season (listed alphabetically).  Years at BYU are listed in parenthesis. 

Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah (DE, 2010-12). On active roster for the Detroit Lions.

Ziggy took advantage of an amazing NFL combine to become the surprise pick of the 2013 NFL draft, where he was selected fifth overall by the Detroit Lions who signed him to a five-year contract.  After an outstanding rookie season where he had eight sacks, Ansah’s break-out party came as a sophomore in 2015 when he went off for 47 tackles, four forced fumbles, two fumbles recovered, three tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks (third in the league).  He was named to the Pro Bowl second team.  The Lions have high hopes for Ansah this season, with the Lion’s defensive coordinator Teryl Austin saying that 20 sacks is within reach.

Robertson Daniel (CB, 2013-14). Cut by the Green Bay Packers.

After going undrafted in the 2015 NFL draft Daniel signed a free agent deal with the Oakland Raiders on May 8, 2015.  After being waived by the Raiders (September 1, 2015) Daniel signed to the Green Bay Packers practice squad (September 7, 2015) and was promoted to the active roster at the completion of the 2015-16 season (January 15, 2016), although he never saw the field in the playoffs.  Daniel was released by the Packers on September 3, 2016 as part of final roster cuts but may stay on the practice squad for another season.

John Denney (LS, 2001-04).  On active roster for Miami Dolphins.

Denney was undrafted in the 2005 draft but signed as a long snapper with the Miami Dolphins.  He is now the longest tenured player on the Dolphins roster and has a streak of 176 consecutive starts, which ranks second among all active players in the NFL.

Alani Fua (ILB, 2010-14). On active roster for Arizona Cardinals.

After going undrafted in the 2015 NFL draft, Fua was signed and later promoted to the 53 man roster for the Arizona Cardinals.  He saw action in five games and recorded eight tackles (six solo) and a fumble recovery in the 2015-16 season, including one playoff game.  Fua had a solid preseason in 2016, playing 66 total defensive snaps and 36 more on special teams and recording five tackles and a pass deflection.  It was enough to secure a roster spot for 2016-17.

Jake Heaps (QB, 2010-11). Cut by the Seattle Seahawks

Heaps transferred from BYU in 2011 and played his final seasons at Kansas and Miami.  After failing to be drafted in the 2015 NFL draft, Heaps was signed to the New York Jets practice squad on May 11, 2015 but released prior to the 2015-16 season on August 27, 2015.  In 2016 he was signed to the Seattle Seahawks practice squad (May 2, 2016) but was cut in the final roster cuts prior to the 2016-17 season (September 3, 2016).

Terenn Houk (WR/TE, 2011-15). Cut by Chicago Bears.

After going undrafted in the 2016 NFL draft, Houk accepted invitations to mini-camps at Chicago and San Francisco but failed to make the practice squad at either place.

Bronson Kaufusi (DE, 2012-15).  On injured reserve for Baltimore Ravens.

Kaufusi was drafted in the third round (70 overall) of the 2016 draft by the Baltimore Ravens and signed a contract with the Ravens over the summer.  He was placed on injured reserve on August 30, 2016 after breaking his ankle in practice earlier in the month and is not expected to play in 2016-17.

Paul Lasike (RB/FB, 2012-14).  On active roster for Chicago Bears.

Lasike is currently the lone fullback listed on the Bears roster but was limited in practices this week with a wrist injury and is questionable for the Bear’s opener vs. Houston on Sunday. He had a solid pre-season with a 25 yard reception vs. the Chiefs (see below). In that game he rushed three times for nine yards and had several blocking snaps. On September 3, 2016 the Bears confirmed that Lasike made the roster.

Lasike signed with the Chicago Bears in 2015 after also attending the Arizona Cardinals mini-camp as an undrafted free agent.  Spent rookie season (2015-16) on the Bear’s practice squad and was re-signed in 2016.

Jordan Leslie (WR, 2014).  Cut by the Atlanta Falcons.

After one outstanding season at BYU as a graduate transfer (From UTEP) was signed by the Vikings on May 2, 2015 as an undrafted free agent.  Cut prior to the 2015 regular season (August 31, 2015) and then signed to the Jacksonville Jaguars’ practice squad mid-season (October 21, 2015) but was not promoted to active roster. Signed to the Atlanta Falcon’s practice squad on December 15, 2015.   Recorded three catches for 48 yards in three preseason games.  Played a total of 64 offensive snaps in the preseason.  Waived by the Falcons August 27, 2016.

Mitch Mathews (WR, 2009, 2012-15).  Cut by the Kansas City Chiefs.

Mathews was signed by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2016 as an undrafted free agent and played in three preseason games, but was not thrown any passes.  He played a total of 14 offensive and 9 special teams snaps.  He was waived from the Chiefs on August 30, 2016.  Kansas City has expressed interest in adding him to their practice squad.

Ryker Mathews (OL, 2011-15). Cut by the New Orleans Saints.

After going undrafted in 2016 Mathews signed a free agent deal with the New Orleans Saints in May 2016 but was assigned a waived-injured designation on August 3, 2016.

Ammon Olson* (QB, 2012-13). Cut by Indianapolis Colts

After transferring from BYU to Southern Utah following the 2013 season Olson proceeded to have an outstanding career at SUU.  He was undrafted in 2016 but was invited to the Indianapolis Colts mini-camp.  He failed to secure a spot on the Colt’s practice squad.

Manoa Pikula (ILB, 2012-15). Cut by the Green Bay Packers.

After going undrafted in the 2016 NFL draft, Pikula signed a free agent deal with the Green Bay Packers in May 2016 but was waived later in the summer.

Dennis Pitta (TE, 2004, 2007-09). On active roster for Baltimore Ravens.

Pitta was drafted in the fourth round (114th overall) in the 2010 draft by the Baltimore Ravens.  Now in his seventh season with the Ravens he has been an incredibly productive tight end when healthy.  He is currently nursing a finger injury and is questionable for Sunday’s game versus the Bills.

Graham Rowley (DL, 2010-11, 2014-15). Cut by Green Bay Packers.

After going undrafted in the 2016 NFL draft, Rowley accepted a minicamp invitation from the Green Bay Packers but failed to secure a spot on the practice squad.

Brad Sorensen* (QB, 2009).  Cut by the Minnesota Vikings.

Sorensen redshirted at BYU in 2009 prior to transferring to SUU.  After being drafted by the Chargers in the 2013 draft (7-221) spent some time on their practice squad.  Spent time in 2015 on the Tennessee Titan’s practice squad, and was signed by the Minnesota Vikings earlier this year. Waived by the Vikings on August 30, 2016 only ten days after signing.  He did not play in the one preseason game played during that period.

Daniel Sorenson (DB, 2008, 2011-13). On active roster for Kansas City Chiefs.

The all-time leader in pass breakups at BYU signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Kansas City Chiefs following the 2014 NFL draft. After a season on the practice squad Sorensen was promoted in 2015 and recorded 23 tackles (20 solo) and a sack on the season, mostly on special teams play.  After a solid preseason and fall camp Sorensen should expect a larger roll in 2015-16.

Uani ‘Unga (MLB, 2011-13).  On the injured reserve for New York Giants

After getting injured in his last collegiate game for BYU, Unga was passed over in the 2014 NFL draft but was signed to a free agent contract by the New York Giants.  Unga had a breakout rookie season in 2015 with 59 tackles (42 solo), two forced fumbles, two interceptions, four pass breakups, and two tackles for loss. Unfortunately, injuries have continued to plague him and he had to sit three games last season with a neck injury and was waived in the offseason.  He is currently listed on the Giant’s injured reserve.

Kyle Van Noy (LB, 2010-13). On active roster for the Detroit Lions.

After arguably the best individual performance ever by a BYU player in a bowl game, KVN came back to BYU for a solid senior season.  He was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the second round (40th overall) in the 2014 NFL draft.  Unfortunately his rookie season was derailed by a preseason injury which kept him out of the first half of the season.  He recorded six tackles in the final five games in 2014-15.  His sophomore season was marginally better with 10 tackles (8 solo), one tackle for loss, and one sack, but there is a lot of pressure to step up his game in 2016.

De’Ondre Wesley (OT, 2013-14). On injured reserve for Baltimore Ravens.

After two years at Daiblo Valley College and two more at BYU, Wesley went undrafted in the 2015 NFL draft.  He was signed as an UDFA by the Baltimore Ravens on May 2, 2015 and was a member of the practice squad going into the 2015-16 season.  Towards the end of the season he was promoted to the active roster and saw gradually more time in each of the final four games (starting one) to finish out the season.  He was re-signed by the Ravens in the off-season but unfortunately was injured and placed on the injured reserve on September 3, 2016.

So that’s seven on the active roster with two of those questionable for Sunday.  Another three are on injured reserve and the remaining ten were waived prior to this weekend’s season openers.  I am currently working on a more comprehensive NFL Pro Tracker resource that will be sent out to subscribers of the newsletter.  If you’d like to get in on that action just sign up below.  It’s free and I email out awesome stuff about once a month.  Otherwise, I’ll post occasional updates for the 10 Cougs in the NFL throughout the season.

About Tyler Christensen 784 Articles
Tyler Christensen is a teacher, sports writer, speaker, and ultra-marathon runner. He is the founder of BYU Insider, D1 Recruiting, Virtual School Assembly, and After the Run. When he's not writing or speaking, he's spending time at home in southern Utah with his amazing wife and four children.