April 30, 2007
Four Eastern Washington University football players are expected to sign free agent contracts or have been invited to National Football League mini-camps, Eastern head coach Paul Wulff said Monday (April 30).
Kicker Brett Bergstrom is headed to the New Orleans Saints, safety Brandon Keeler signed with the Arizona Cardinals, defensive end Keith Grennan was inked by the San Diego Chargers and offensive lineman Harrison Nikolao will join the Cincinnati Bengals.
Only the Cardinals and Chargers have made official announcements as of Monday night. Chargers mini-camp is May 5-6 and the others are also expected to take place in May.
All four are 2002 graduates of high schools in the state of Washington. Bergstrom is from North Bend and graduated from Mt. Si High School; Grennan is from Edmonds and graduated in 2002 from Edmonds-Woodway; Keeler graduated from Federal Way; and Nikolao is from Tacoma and graduated from Lincoln High School. Grennan transferred to Eastern from Central Washington while Bergstrom attended junior college in California at Shasta Junior College.
Bergstrom, who had a school-record 15 field goals last season with three of at least 50 yards, was the lone first team All-Big Sky Conference selection on a team that finished 3-8. Keeler and Grennan both earned honorable mention All-Big Sky honors, and Nikolao started eight games as an offensive guard after formerly earning All-Big Sky honors as an Eagle defensive lineman.
Since 1984 when Eastern became a member of the NCAA Championship Subdivision (formerly called I-AA), 54 Eastern players have either been drafted, signed free agent contracts or have been invited to mini-camps by National Football League or Canadian Football League teams. The EWU senior classes of 1986, 1992, 1998, 2005 and now the 2006 class have all had four players represented on that list.
Last year, NFL signees included Erik Meyer (Cincinnati), Eric Kimble (Miami) and Jesse Hendrix (British Columbia Lions). Joey Cwik had a mini-camp tryout with the New Orleans Saints.
None of those four made rosters of those teams, but Meyer (Cologne Centurions of NFL Europa) and Hendrix (Montreal Alouettes) recently found new homes in pro football. In fact, Hendrix is playing in Montreal with a trio of other former Eagles -- Lamont Brightful, Luke Fritz and Dario Romero.
Other former Eagles still active in the NFL or CFL are Michael Roos (Tennessee), Ryan Phillips (British Columbia) and Bashir Levingston (Toronto).
Below are bios on the four Eagles:
#28 Brett Bergstrom
2006: In just his first season as Eastern's placekicker, Bergstrom became only the second Eastern kicker to earn first team All-Big Sky honors since Eastern became a member of the league in 1987. A former Eastern safety, wide receiver and defensive end, he finished the year making 15-of-18 field goals and 21-of-22 extra points. His field goal total equaled EWU's single season record and his average of 1.36 field goals per game ranked sixth in the NCAA Championship Subdivision. His field goals included three of the nine longest in school history with efforts of 56, 53 and 52 yards. He was a perfect 4-of-4 on field goal attempts of 40 yards or longer as his lone misses in 2006 were from 36, 35 (blocked) and 32 (muddy field conditions). His only extra point miss came versus Northern Arizona. It was his only season as Eastern's placekicker, but he handled kickoffs in both 2005 and 2006. He averaged 60.6 yards on 45 kickoffs with 16 touchbacks in 2006, and in 2005 he averaged 61.6 yards with 22 touchbacks on 75 kicks. He also earned team Special Teams Player of the Year accolades in 2006. His 15 field goals tied the school record shared by three players -- Josh Atwood in 1997, Alex Lacson in 1991 and Jason Cromer in 1990. He is only the second player in school history to kick three field goals of 50 yards or more in a single season and only the third overall to have that many 50-yard boots in a career. Eric Stein had five career field goals of at least 50 yards, including three in 1987 (school record 57, 51 twice). The only other kicker to earn All-Big Sky first team honors was Lacson in 1991, and Troy Griggs is Eastern's lone second team choice as he was honored in 2001. Bergstrom earned Big Sky Conference Special Teams Player of the Week honors for the second time in 2006 after helping Eastern defeat Northern Colorado (10/14/06) 34-0 in Greeley, Colo. He also earned the same honor after Eastern's win at Montana State (9/23/06). Both times he was also honored as the Football Gazette National Special Teams Player of the Week. Bergstrom made long field goals of 56 and 47 yards against Northern Colorado. His 56 yarder is the second-longest in school history, ranking behind the 57-yarder Stein had 20 years ago against Montana State on Sept. 25, 1987. In Eastern's 19-10 league victory at Montana State, Bergstrom kicked four field goals. Bergstrom's field goals included a 53-yarder that at the time was the fourth-longest in school history (now fifth). He added a 52-yard boot against Northern Arizona that ranks eighth. Kicking camps in Texas, California and Boise, Idaho, helped him hone his skills in summer 2006. He spent spring 2006 playing at right defensive end and competing with veteran Sheldon Weddle for the starting placekicking job. He concentrated on kicking in the fall once he beat-out Weddle for the job. 2005: Didn't start, but lettered as a reserve receiver, special teams player, kicker and punter. He didn't catch any passes but had six tackles and punted 11 times for a 40.8 average and a long of 53. He handled kickoffs for EWU, averaging 61.0 yards per kickoff with 23 touchbacks. Twice he was selected as the team's special teams player of the week in games versus Western Oregon (9/17/05) and Northern Arizona (10/8/05). Versus Western Oregon, he averaged 64.6 yards on eight kickoffs, including four touchbacks, and also punted three times for a 36.0 average. Versus the Lumberjacks he averaged 64.3 yards on seven kickoffs with a pair of touchbacks. He moved from defense to wide receiver in the spring. In Eastern's third scrimmage during spring drills, he caught three passes for 64 yards and a touchdown. 2004: Redshirted as a safety. Was selected as the team's Defensive Scout Team Player of the Week once. JC: He played two seasons at Shasta Junior College in California. HS: Graduated from Mount Si HS in 2002. He was selected as a senior in 2001 to the Prep Football Report All-State second team as a wide receiver. He was a first team All-KingCo 3A selection as both a wide receiver and defensive back, and was the league's special teams player of the year. He finished the year with 45 catches for 619 yards and four touchdowns. He scored a total of six touchdowns and 78 points as he also kicked seven field goals and 21 extra points. He played in the All-State Football Game, where he kicked a 46-yard field goal for the only points scored by his West squad. Eagle teammate Alex Smart ('04) also attended Mount Si. Personal: Born 4/6/83 in Bellevue, Wash. Interdisciplinary studies major.
#95 Keith Grennan
DL, 6-4, 290, Sr., Edmonds, Wash.
2006: Earned honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference honors. He had 37 tackles with a pair of sacks in 2006, giving him career totals of 65 tackles and five sacks in his 21-game career. He started all 11 games at defensive tackle in 2006, giving him 15 total career starts. Both of his sacks came against Montana (10/7/07) when he earned team Defensive Player of the Week and "Hit of the Week" honors. He had a season-high seven tackles against his former school, Central Washington (9/16/06). 2006: Listed as a starter at defensive tackle on preseason depth chart. He missed one of Eastern's spring scrimmages after then-teammate Chris Anderson accidentally hooked him in the back of the head when they were fishing at nearby Badger Lake. 2005: Started four games at defensive tackle, including Eastern's last three games of the year. The first start of his career came against Weber State (10/22/05), then he had a career-high seven tackles against Montana State (11/12/05) in his second start. He won EWU's big play of the week award against MSU. 2004: Lost a year of eligibility after having to sit out the 2004 season because of NCAA transfer rules. Was selected as the team's Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year and won the team's weekly award three times. CWU: Played as a tight end in the 2003 season at Central Washington University after redshirting in 2002. He finished the 2003 season with 12 catches for 157 yards (13.1 per catch) with no touchdowns. He had his best game of the season against EWU (9/18/03) when he caught five passes for 82 yards. He had catches of 15 yards and 28 yards on a Wildcat scoring drive in the second quarter that gave CWU a 15-14 lead that Eastern would eventually overcome to win 48-29. HS: Graduated from Edmonds-Woodway HS in 2002. Selected by the Seattle Times as a "White Chip" selection as one of the top 80 recruits in the state of Washington and to the newspaper's "Star Times" All-Area team as an offensive lineman. He was a first team All-WesCo 4A South League selection and was a Seattle Times All-Area performer. He helped block for running back Kyle Thew, who had a pair of 300-yard rushing games. He bench pressed 395 pounds on two occasions during his senior year and achieved a 4.9-second mark in the 40-yard dash. Personal: Born 5/20/84. Interdisciplinary studies major.
#19 Brandon Keeler
Career: He finished his 43-game career -- including 34 as a starter -- with 243 tackles to rank 10th in school history. Three times he earned All-Big Sky Conference honors -- first team as a sophomore, and second team as a junior and honorable mention as a senior. He had five interceptions and seven passes broken up. 2006: Keeler was honored for the third time on the All-Big Sky Conference team, earning honorable mention accolades. He was the team's leading tackler in 2006 with 67, and added two interceptions and 3 1/2 sacks. He played in all 11 games, including eight as a starter at rover. His interceptions were against Central Washington (9/16/06) and another in the final game of his career versus Idaho State (11/11/06). He had a season-high 11 tackles versus CWU. HE was the team's defensive player of the week after finishing with six tackles in the team's opener at Oregon State (8/31/06). He received honorable mention on the Football Gazette preseason NCAA Football Championship Subdivision All-America team. 2005: Earned second team All-Big Sky Conference honors. Started all 12 games at free safety. His average of 5.2 tackles per game ranked 31st in the Big Sky. He had a season-high 12 versus Cal Poly (11/5/05) and nine in back-to-back games versus Idaho State (9/24/05) and Portland State (10/1/05). He won the team's big hit of the week award against Montana (10/15/05). He also won the big play of the week award versus Sacramento State (10/29/05). He was one of three Eagles given off-season strength and conditioning awards by strength and conditioning coach Darin Lovat. 2004: He was selected to the Football Gazette All-West Region third team. He was a first team All-Big Sky Conference selection as a safety. His 114 tackles in the 2004 season rank eighth in school history and ranked third in the Big Sky Conference (8.8 per game). He started Eastern's last 12 games at free safety after moving to the secondary from wide receiver in the spring. Keeler was Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week in Eastern's 36-21 win over Cal Poly (11/6/04), finishing with a team-high nine tackles (six unassisted) with an interception and pass broken up. He had at least 10 tackles in four games, and nine on three more occasions. He had an interception and a career-high 15 tackles against Portland State (10/2/04). In the spring, he was one of nine Eagles given off-season strength and conditioning awards by strength and conditioning coach Darin Lovat. Keeler had an interception in the Red-White Spring Game. 2003: Redshirted. 2002: He played as a true freshman, catching a 17-yard pass in Eastern's season opener versus Arizona State (8/31/02). He finished the season with three catches for 29 yards. HS: Graduated from Federal Way HS in 2002. Selected by the Seattle Times as a "White Chip" selection as one of the top 80 recruits in the state of Washington. Was a second team All-South Puget Sound League South Division selection as a wide receiver. Finished the year with 16 catches for 384 yards and three touchdowns. In addition, he averaged 24 yards per punt return to lead the league and also had a team-leading four interceptions. He caught a 78-yard touchdown pass in a 46-28 playoff loss to Bethel as Federal Way finished the season 6-3. As a junior, Keeler caught 17 passes for 330 yards and two touchdowns to earn second team All-SPSL honors. Also a track and field standout, he won the State 4A championship in the long jump (22-8) and 110 hurdles (14.49) as a senior. He also placed fifth in the 300 hurdles (38.63) and sixth in the triple jump (43-10 1/2). As a junior, he competed in the State 4A championships in the long jump and triple jump, and was a member of the state champion 4x400 relay team. Eagle teammate Anthony Dotson ('03) also attended Federal Way. Personal: Born 8/17/84 in Worthington, Minn. Interdisciplinary studies major.
Top Tackling Performances:
15 tackles, 1 int. Portland State - 10/2/04
14 tackles Air Force - 9/11/04
12 tackles Cal Poly - 11/5/05
11 tackles, 1 int. Central Washington - 9/16/06
11 tackles Southern Illinois - 11/27/04
11 tackles Nicholls State - 9/2/04
#57 Harrison Nikolao
OL, 6-2, 295, Sr., Tacoma, Wash.
2006: After starting 23 games as a defensive lineman, Nikolao moved over to a starting offensive guard position for his senior season. He started a total of 32 games in his career, including one start on offense in 2004 and eight more offensive starts in 2006. He started Eastern's first four games at left guard, then started four of the last seven as a shoulder injury kept him out of two games late in the year. He had the team's "Big Hit" at West Virginia (9/9/06). Although he didn't participate in spring practice, he was moved to an offensive guard position in the spring. It was his second such move, although after the first switch in 2004 when he played on both sides of the ball, he returned full-time to defense in 2005. He added 50 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame since arriving at EWU. 2005: Earned second team All-Big Sky Conference honors. Started 10 games at nose guard, but missed two games with a sternum injury. He had a season-high six tackles against Portland State (10/1/05) and had sacks in three different games. He was the team's defensive player of the week after finishing with five tackles against Idaho State (9/24/05). 2004: Started Eastern's first two games of the season at nose guard and the last game at tackle while spending most of the season as a two-way player. Nikolao was moved from the defensive line to the offensive line the week prior to the game against Central Washington (9/18/04), and after that played often as a backup guard for the Eagles. He had started 13-straight games along the defensive line prior to the move to offense, Nikolao changed from jersey number 99 to 57. But with injuries to a pair of defensive linemen in October, Nikolao moved back to defense and saw significant action on that side of the ball in Eastern's 51-7 win over Weber State (10/23/04) when Eastern tied a school record with nine sacks. He finished with a sack and one other tackle, and was also used on offense in Eastern's short-yardage situations. He finished the year listed as both a backup nose guard on defense and backup guard on offense and started on offense in Eastern's playoff game against Sam Houston State. In Eastern's 35-31 victory over No. 1-ranked and top-seeded Southern Illinois, Nikolao batted down a pass on the final play of the game to preserve the win. Of his 22 tackles for the season, 13 of them came in Eastern's final three games. He was selected as team Defensive Player of the Week once. 2003: Earned honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference honors as a defensive tackle. He started Eastern's first five games at left defensive tackle and the last six at right defensive tackle. He had 1 1/2 sacks in Eastern's 8-5 victory over Idaho (9/6/03). His season-high of eight tackles came against Northern Arizona (10/18/03). 2002: Could not participate for the 2002-03 academic year due to NCAA regulations. HS: Graduated from Lincoln HS in 2002. Selected to play in the State 3A/4A All-State game. First team All-Narrows League Bay Division as a defensive lineman. Lincoln finished with a 5-4 record. Eagle teammate Jason Belford ('04) also attended Lincoln. Personal: Born 9/5/84 in Salinas, Calif. Turned 22 five days after Eastern opened the 2006 season at Oregon State. Interdisciplinary studies major.