Steven Forgette and T.J. Lee III are also among the former Eagles waiting for professional football opportunities
A trio of former Eastern Washington University football players will get their opportunities in the National Football League starting later this week at rookie mini-camps, including a pair of players getting a chance with the reigning Super Bowl Champions.
Defensive tackle Andru Pulu agreed to terms as an undrafted free agent with the Seattle Seahawks last Saturday (May 10) after the NFL Draft concluded. He will make the short trek from his hometown of Federal Way, Wash., to Renton, Wash., for the three-day rookie mini-camp for the defending Super Bowl Champions.
“I can probably just catch the bus there,” laughed Pulu, who was born and raised in the Seattle area only 10-15 minutes away from Seahawks headquarters and graduated in 2009 from Federal Way High School. “It’s great to get to stay at home and not have to go anywhere to get an opportunity.”
In addition, tailback Demitrius Bronson from Kent, Wash., reports that he will join the Seahawks as a free agent, and defensive end Anthony Larry says he will head for Philadelphia for an opportunity with the Eagles. Bronson graduated from Kentridge High School in 2008, and both he and Pulu started their collegiate careers at the University of Washington.
“It is just the first step of many, and all I wanted was an opportunity with a team,” said Bronson of also getting the opportunity to play for his hometown team. “Having it come in Seattle just makes it even sweeter because you have the whole town cheering for you to be great.”
Pulu and Larry were both coached on the EWU defensive line by Ryan Sawyer, a native of Washington who is now in his seventh season on the staff of head coach Beau Baldwin.
“It’s a huge compliment to them, but our program as well,” said Sawyer. “They are not going to take it for granted, and will do as much as possible to make those football teams. Both of them are great young men who have done a lot for us.”
Offensive lineman Steve Forgette said his agent is still in discussions with teams, and has also received interest from Canadian Football League and Arena Football League organizations. All-America cornerback T.J. Lee III, who played in the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) Collegiate Bowl in January, has yet to announce his professional plans.
Pulu started all 28 games he played for the Eagles in his career after transferring from the University of Washington. He earned second team All-Big Sky Conference honors as a senior and honorable mention as a junior. He had 79 career tackles, including six sacks and 12 total tackles for losses totaling 31 yards.
“I’m just happy that I was able to pick where I could play,” he added of going undrafted. “I would have gone anywhere, but they were my first choice – either there or someplace sunny.”
At Eastern’s Pro Day on March 12, 2014, he bench pressed 225 pounds 28 times. He also participated in Seattle’s workout for local players.
“That went pretty well and they were able to know who I was after that workout,” he said. “It was a solid workout.”
Represented by Erik Schmella and Chris Ellison, Pulu also had workouts with four other NFL teams (Houston, Green Bay, Cincinnati and Oakland), and nine clubs were represented at a pro day conducted for him at Federal Way HS. In all, Schmella said 24 teams reached out about Pulu, and that “both Pete Carroll (Seahawks) and Jim Harbaugh (San Francisco 49ers) called Andru personally to recruit him to sign with their teams.”
Pulu said he is at 315 pounds and expects to see action as a nose guard at this week’s camp. His last game as an Eagle came in the semifinals of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs back on Dec. 21.
“I expect there will be a lot of technique involved, fast-paced and a chance to get back moving again,” he said of the camp. “I need to knock off the rust. I still have some work to do (to get back in game shape), but I will be good when camp starts in August.”
Represented by agent Erik Schmella, Pulu will still have a connection to Eastern in the next few years. His “little” brother Jordan is a 6-foot-2, sophomore defensive tackle for the Eagles. Although listed at 260 on Eastern’s roster, he’s expected to play at 290 this upcoming season. Andru played at 310 as a senior.
The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Larry was a third team All-Big Sky selection this past season, and received workouts from several NFL teams, including Philadelphia, after his eligibility was exhausted last December. He started 22 of 38 games he played at Eastern and finished with 122 tackles, 11 1/2 sacks and 32 total tackles for loss totaling 107 yards in losses.
“I’m excited for them and all the hard work that went into it,” Sawyer said of Pulu and Larry. “It’s an opportunity to showcase their talent and a chance for them to keep playing at the highest level of football.”
“It puts a smile on my face,” added Sawyer. “But now I hope they perform well.”
Larry, who is from Sacramento, Calif., and graduated from Luther Burbank High School in 2009, was called by the Eagles early Monday morning. He will fly to Philadelphia on Wednesday for the start of their rookie camp on Thursday. If camp goes well, he said he will sign a free agent contract with the team.
“Always an Eagle,” said Larry of the opportunity to go from being an Eastern Eagle to a Philadelphia Eagle. “I’m excited and I was anxious waiting for the chance. The phone call woke me up out of my sleep, so that’s how I started my Monday morning.”
Bronson earned honorable mention All-Big Sky honors in 2012, and was a short-yardage specialist for the Eagles. Despite spending much of his career injured, he finished with 600 career rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, and caught eight career passes for 51 more yards. He started 10 of the 29 games he played and had two touchdowns on four occasions.
Bronson, who was also involved in private workouts with the Seahawks, said he expects to formally sign with the Seahawks next Sunday after the mini-camp. The 5-foot-10, 210-pound Bronson is also a former Husky and played as a tailback at Eastern, but could wind up as a fullback at the next level.
“They are bringing me in as a tailback, but I’m sure they will move me around,” he said.
Eagles in the Pros
Since 1984, when Eastern became a member of the NCAA Championship Subdivision (FCS), 72 Eastern football players have either signed free agent contracts or have been drafted by National Football League (NFL) or Canadian Football League (CFL) teams. Ten have been drafted by the NFL and five drafted by the CFL to go along with four NFL draftees between 1965-74. Eastern has also enjoyed a recent influx of players into the Arena Football League (AFL) and arenafootball2 (af2), as well as in the United Football League (UFL) and Indoor Football League (IFL). Prior to that, several played in the World League, which became NFL Europa before it folded. The list below shows EWU’s current professionals and the team they are currently with. The years listed are the years they lettered at Eastern.
2014 Current Professionals (as of May 10, 2014)
Tennessee Titans (NFL) – Michael Roos – Offensive Tackle – Letterwinner at EWU 2001-02-03-04
Cleveland Browns (NFL) – Isaiah Trufant – Cornerback – 2002-03-04-05
Baltimore Ravens (NFL) – Nathan Overbay Tight End – 2006-07-08-09
Oakland Raiders (NFL) – Taiwan Jones – Cornerback/Running Back – 2008-09-10
Dallas Cowboys (NFL) – Matt Johnson – Safety – 2008-09-10-11
Buffalo Bills (NFL) – Brandon Kaufman – Wide Receiver – 2009-10-12
Seattle Seahawks (NFL) – Andru Pulu - Defensive Tackle – 2012-13
Seattle Seahawks (NFL) – Demitrius Bronson - Tailback – 2011-12-13
Philadelphia Eagles (NFL) – Anthony Larry - Defensive End - 2011-13
British Columbia Lions (CFL) – Ryan Phillips – Defensive Back – 2003-04
Winnipeg Blue Bombers (CFL) – Greg Peach – Defensive Line – 2005-06-07-08
Edmonton Eskimos (CFL) – Matt Nichols – Quarterback – 2006-07-08-09
Edmonton Eskimos (CFL) – J.C. Sherritt – Linebacker – 2007-08-09-10
Calgary Stampeders (CFL) – Bo Levi Mitchell – Quarterback – 2010-11
Calgary Stampeders (CFL) – Zach Johnson – Linebacker – 2008-10-11-12
Toronto Argonauts (CFL) – Shea Emry – Linebacker – 2005-06
Spokane Shock (AFL) – Erik Meyer – Quarterback – 2002-03-04-05