Started at The Rent and Now They're Here

Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

As the NFL season kicks off tonight, we spotlight the 17 former Huskies ready to take the field on Sundays.

Before the Ravens and Broncos kick off the 2013 NFL season tonight, we’ve taken the liberty of providing you a list of the only players you need to know about all year:

Your former UConn Huskies.

By our count, seven of the 17 Rent alums are official starters, and that number has a slim chance to grow to 10 by season’s end. But, no matter whether they’re suiting up on Saturdays or Sundays, there’s always only one message for football season:

Go Huskies.

Oh, and send flowers to the guys on the Raiders. They’re going to need it this year.

Dwayne Gratz, CB Jacksonville Jaguars

Gratz is currently listed as the starting left cornerback for the Jaguars, who will play the Chiefs at home on Sunday. Dwayne is scheduled to endure a baptism by fire, as they say, going against Kansas City’s former Pro Bowler wideout Dwayne Bowe. Thankfully, Alex Smith can’t throw the any farther than this article is long. So we’ll see how hot it really gets for Gratz.

Sio Moore, LB Oakland Raiders

Poor Sio.

We told you in our summer Husky Hard Knocks series that when Mr. Moore was drafted last April, he was a little pissed off.

Four months later, despite the fact he’s now entrenched as a starter, it’s very likely that nothing’s changed for Sio. Much like the Mets when it turns to fall, the Raiders are destined for a two-win season, and their quarterback situation is no better than the one Moore endured at UConn. Patience is, and will be for a few seasons, a virtue, old friend.

Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB Tennessee Titans

Surprisingly, you can Blidi buried as the Titans’ fifth cornerback on their depth chart to open the season. We discussed this summer how his skill set wasn’t exactly a fit for the team’s new scheme under Gregg Williams and, at least for now, that’s how things are playing out. We wish all the best to Wreh-Willson, who everyone knows will be working his tail off to see the field down the road.

Trevardo Willians, OLB Houston Texans

Trevardo has landed on IR in Houston due to a knee injury, and will not play at all this season.

*sigh*

Ryan Griffin, TE Houston Texans

The last of the 2013 Husky draft picks now finds a spot as the last tight end on Houston’s roster. Depending on his development and the precarious contract situations of the other Texan tight ends, Griffin could see significant playing time in the next few years

Nick Williams, WR Washington Redskins (practice squad)

After being let go during final cuts last weekend, Nick went unclaimed by the other 31 teams during the 24-hour waiver period and returned to D.C. His versatility as a return man and receiver is what currently keeps his pro career hopes alive, but he’ll need to continue to develop in both areas to have a prolonged future.

(Also, pat on the back to us for not making any sort of Williams to Wes Welker comparison or mention. Enough of that and likening any small, white guy who’s quicker than he is fast to the All-Pro.)

Kashif Moore, WR Pittsburgh Steelers (practice squad)

Kashif! Hello!

After bouncing around from Cincinnati to Houston, San Diego and Indianapolis, Moore has now found a spot on Pittsburgh’s practice squad. UConn’s former no. 1 target in the passing game caught exactly one pass in the preseason, a 20-yarder against the Panthers in the fourth week. Talk about making the most of your opportunities.

Also, if you haven’t watched his sick, one-handed grab from the 2010 Papajohns.com bowl win over South Carolina (how the f*** did we do that again?) sometime in the last few weeks, you’re clearly sick and need to do so now.

Jordan Todman, RB Jacksonville Jaguars

How Jordan Todman lasted until the sixth round of the 2011 draft is going to give me a serious, premature bald spot as I continue to scratch my head. Meanwhile, he’s earned a spot as Jacksonville’s third-string running back behind Maurice Jones-Drew and Justin Forsett.

Donald Brown, RB Indianapolis Colts

Brown is currently listed as the Colts’ second-string running back behind Vick Ballard, though Ahmad Bradshaw "waits" behind him. Should the former Giant stay healthy and return to old form, Brown could see few snaps this year. Last season, Brown garnered his lowest figures in rushes, yards and yards/carry since his rookie season.

Kendall Reyes, DT San Diego Chargers

Did anyone else know that Kendall racked up 5.5 sacks last year? As a 3-4 defensive end? While only starting four games? Wow. Well, the Nashua, N.H. native returns as a starter for San Diego, and with damn good reason.

Robert McClain, CB Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons got a head start on Spring Cleaning this year when they wiped out their starting cornerbacks, which left McClain and Asante Samuel as the only dirty birds still…. flying… standing… still as dirty birds? Anyways, after a breakout season in 2012, the former Husky cover man is now slated as Atlanta’s nickelback, which is essentially a starting position in the modern era of the NFL.

Anthony Sherman, FB Kansas City Chiefs

Two things have recently been assumed to be dead in pro football: trades and fullbacks.

Sherman changed all of that on May 1 when he was dealt from the Cardinals to the Chiefs straight up for corner Javier Arenas. As Kansas City’s starting fullback, Sherman will have the chance to clear the way for Jamaal Charles, who very well could win the rushing title in 2013.

Tyvon Branch, SS Oakland Raiders

Branch would be a budding star in this league was it for the black hole that is the Black Hole out in Oakland. He returns for yet another season in black and silver to anchor the Raider secondary.

Will Beatty, OT New York Giants

The biggest problem for the Giants’ starting left tackle this year won’t be staving off opposing pass rushers. It will be sharing meeting and locker rooms every day with a Syracuse alumnus. We can only hope for the best for Beatty, who has to deal with New York’s first-round pick from this year, Orange scum/offensive tackle Justin Pugh.

(In all seriousness, Pugh seems like a perfect gentlemen from interview clips. So, must just hide it really well.)

Marcus Easley, WR Buffalo Bills

Then again, no one has it worse than Easley, who has to adhere to a head coach and offensive coordinator paced the sidelines of the Carrier Dome the last few years. Godspeed, good Marcus.

Easley is listed as a third-team wide receiver for the Bills.

Danny Lansanah, LB New York Jets (practice squad)

Lansanah was an All-Big East first-teamer back in 2007 before he spent three seasons in the NFL with as many teams. Once the Detroit Lions let him go in ‘09, the former Husky began a career in the UFL that saw stops in Hartford and Las Vegas over three more years. His NFL aspirations were revived this past January with a reserve/future contract offer from the Jets.

Big-time congrats to Danny for making it in New York. And sorry about the whole "Mark Sanchez or Geno Smith will be your quarterback" thing.

Dan Orlovsky, QB Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Connecticut: The nutmeg state, home of Nathan Hale and most accurately, just that space between Boston and New York. Also, it’s the only place on the planet where Dan Orlovsky isn’t know for this. Sorry. He returns as the third-string quarterback for the Bucs in 2013.

Donald Thomas, OG Indianapolis Colts

A big winner in free agency this past off-season, Thomas signed a four-year $14 million contract with the Colts to block for Brown, Ballard and Bradshaw (enough B’s for you?). Oh, and protect that guy Andrew Luck. Thomas is now a part of an overhauled Colts offensive line, an opportunity he earned while filling in admirably as a part of the Patriots’ front five.

Fun fact: Thomas is represented by Drew Rosenhaus.

Follow Andrew on Twitter for all things UConn Football: UConnFB_Andrew

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