Locals make 2018 NFL rosters

The NFL season is underway and a handful of athletes from The Laker/Lutz News coverage area wound up making rosters, proving themselves worthy throughout training camp and preseason action.

Here is a look at the locals now playing at football’s highest level:

Janarion Grant
(Courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens)

Janarion Grant, receiver—Baltimore Ravens
College: Rutgers University (Piscataway, New Jersey)
High School: Pasco High School; graduated in 2013

The 5-10, 173-pound shifty athlete overcame the odds as an undrafted rookie—and nagging injuries his last two college seasons—to make the Baltimore Ravens’ 53-man roster.

His prowess on special teams was a big reason why; penciled in as the team’s starting kick and punt returner.

Grant, 24, showcased that skillset in Week 1, with a field-flipping 51-yard return in the Ravens 47-3 home win over the Buffalo Bills, breaking several tackles, and utilizing his agility and straight-line speed.

Path to the pros
Grant’s path to the NFL wasn’t without some hardship, particularly in regard to staying healthy.

While at Rutgers, Grant suffered an ankle injury early in 2016 that forced him to miss all but four games and later gain a medical redshirt. He also battled ailments the following year as a fifth-year senior, able to play in just seven contests.

Despite limited action his final two collegiate seasons, Grant wound up becoming Rutgers’ all-time kickoff return yardage leader (2,857 yards) and tied for the NCAA record for combined kick return touchdowns (eight).

Meanwhile, Grant left a lasting legacy at Pasco High School, where he was a four-year starter and still holds the county record for most career touchdowns (77) by a skill player. The two-time All-State selection also tallied over 5,000 career all-purpose yards in his prep career.

Joey Ivie
(Courtesy of the Kansas City Chiefs)

Joey Ivie, defensive tackle—Kansas City Chiefs
College: University of Florida
High School: Pasco High School; graduated in 2013

The 6-foot-3, 295-pound defensive tackle is now on his fourth NFL franchise since being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the seventh round (228th overall) of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Ivie, 23, was recently signed to the Chiefs practice squad after brief stints with the Cowboys, Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks, respectively.

He spent most of the 2017 regular season on the Falcons’ practice squad after being waived by the Cowboys before the start of that season.

Though he’s not yet seen any regular season action as a practice squad player, NFL teams seem to value his motor, energy and overall athleticism. Lack of desired mass and power as a run-stopper has been a knock, however.

Path to the pros
Ivie was a strong contributor to the Florida Gators since his freshman year. His best campaign came as a senior in 2016, starting 10 of 11 games while battling a thumb injury (26 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks).

Like Janarion Grant, Ivie himself shined for Pasco High School, where he posted a combined 142 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, and 20 sacks as a junior and senior. The skillset and production on the line helped him become a prized four-star recruit, with more than 20 Division I scholarship offers. Meanwhile, the Pirates went a combined 36-3 mark and captured three district titles in the three seasons Ivie spent on varsity.

Alex McGough
(Courtesy of the Seattle Seahawks)

Alex McGough, quarterback—Seattle Seahawks
College: Florida International University
High School: Wesley Chapel High School (freshman year only), Gaither High School; graduated in 2014

Selected by the Seahawks in the seventh round (220th overall) of this year’s NFL Draft, the

6-foot-3, 214-pound signal-caller proved himself worthy of making the team’s practice squad roster after showing signs of potential throughout the preseason — completing 58 percent of his passes for 416 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, and rushing for 59 yards.

The Seahawks certainly seem to like the 23-year-old McGough, considering he’s the NFL’s third-highest paid practice squad player, according to NFL.com reporter Tom Pelissaro, earning $28,235 per week, totaling up to $451,760 for the entire season. (The minimum amount a team can pay their practice squad player is $7,600 per week totaling up to $120,000 for the regular season.)

McGough is one of three quarterbacks on the Seahawks roster, behind four-time Pro Bowler Russell Wilson and fourth-year veteran Brett Hundley.

Path to the pros
McGough became FIU’s most decorated passer and set numerous school passing records across four years as a starter.

For his career, he completed 807 of 1335 passes (60.4 percent completion rate) for 9,091 yards, 65 touchdowns and 37 interceptions. He also rushed for 535 yards and 16 touchdowns.

McGough, surprisingly, was rather under-looked coming out of Gaither High School — where he tallied nearly 5,000 passing yards and more than 50 passing touchdowns in three varsity seasons — earning just two college scholarship offers (FIU and Colgate University, in upstate New York).

He’s certainly proved any doubters wrong, becoming just the fifth player from a Hillsborough County high school to be drafted as a quarterback in the last 50 years. The others are Robinson’s John Reaves (1972), Leto’s Gary Huff (’73), Chamberlain’s Dean May (’84) and Plant’s Aaron Murray (2014). (McGough transferred from Wesley Chapel High School to Gaither following his freshman year.)

Locals placed on NFL injured reserve for the 2018 season:

TJ Mutcherson, safety—Seattle Seahawks
College: University of Central Florida, Iowa State
High School: Freedom High School

Trey Johnson, cornerback—Pittsburgh Steelers
College: Villanova University (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
High School: Steinbrenner High School

Locals cut during the course of NFL preseason training camp

Jacob Pugh, linebacker—cut by the Seattle Seahawks
College: Florida State University
Schools: Godby High School (Tallahassee); Jefferson County High School (Monticello); Pasco Middle School (Dade City native)

Shaheed Salmon, linebacker—cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
College: Samford University (Homewood, Alabama)
High School: Land O’ Lakes High School

Published September 19, 2018

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