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UConn in the NFL: Husky Hard Knocks

Former Huskies are hard at work in preparation for the unpredictable season ahead.

New York Giants Training Camp Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

If there was ever a season to be an NFL player on the verge of breaking into a rotation spot, this would be the one. It looks increasingly likely that NFL coaches — and the league in general — will treat COVID-19 cases like short-term injuries. Despite long-term complications already having devastating effects on football players, the NFL will close their eyes, plug their ears, and imagine it as a sprained ankle.

As a result (besides the fact that it’s very likely an NFL player will fall gravely ill from an incurable disease), we will see much more team rotation in the league this year and thus, more UConn players. Eight Huskies have made NFL rosters this year, so let’s see where you can find them.

Anthony Sherman, FB, Kansas City Chiefs

Fresh off a game-sealing lead block in the Super Bowl — good lord does that seem like 10 years ago — Anthony Sherman is loving life in Kansas City. His strong pass- and run-blocking skills during the 2019 season netted him a Pro Bowl appearance, despite only netting 31 yards from scrimmage.

Byron Jones, DB, Miami Dolphins

It was a massive offseason for the New Britain, Connecticut native: new teammates, new jerseys on his back, and a new home in South Beach. Jones signed a five-year, $82 million contract with the Miami Dolphins, making him the highest-paid cornerback in NFL history. How’s that for a recruiting pitch, Randy Edsall?

Jones will join a cornerback partnership with Baylor alum Xavien Howard and will play along safeties Eric Rowe and Bobby McCain in the defensive backfield.

Foley Fatukasi, DT, New York Jets

One of the best interior linemen in UConn history has made an NFL roster for the second year running, coming off the bench for his hometown team, the New York Jets. After posting 125 tackles through three years while anchoring the Huskies’ offensive line, Fatukasi made just one appearance for the Gang Green in 2019. This year, he’ll be competing with old man Steve McLendon for a spot at nose tackle, but will likely see more game time due to the nature of this season.

Ryan Griffin, TE, New York Jets.

The Jets gained a double dose of Huskies on their roster last year, adding Ryan Griffin from the Houston Texans in the 2019 offseason. The seven-year veteran will look to add on a 320-yard, five touchdown season with New York that earned him a $10.8 million, three-year extension. Get paid, son! And have a good season in the green while you’re at it, you’re likely to make quite a few fantasy owners very happy.

Matt Peart, OT, New York Giants

Offensive tackle Matt Peart will make it two New York football teams with UConn players on the roster in 2020. Peart was one of the few bright spots during UConn football’s last half-decade as he started every possible game over his four years of eligibility after red-shirting as a freshman. An undisputed legend with the Huskies, he now looks to make a career for himself with Big Blue.

Luck might be on his side in that aspect, however. Peart was the second offensive lineman taken in the 2020 NFL draft, selected with the 99th overall pick. Originally, he was set to back up first-round draft pick Andrew Thomas out of Georgia and veteran Nate Solder, but when the latter opted out of the 2020 season, the picture became much more muddled. Peart will compete with Cameron Fleming for that starting spot.

Shamar Stephen, DT, Minnesota Vikings

The former UConn captain will start his sixth season in the NFL and his fifth with the Vikings. In 2019, Stephen had one of his best seasons in the NFL, garnering 15 solo tackles, two of them for loss. After years of the Vikings’ defensive line being too deep and talented for even a quality player to break into a starting role, Stephen was given a chance to make an impression as a starter last year, and he’s projected to keep that spot this year despite competition from Jaleel Johnson and Hercules Mata’afa

Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, Atlanta Falcons

Blidi is now a bonafide veteran in the NFL, starting his eighth season in the league this year, and his fourth with the Falcons. Wreh-Wilson was one of Randy Edsall’s patented two-star-turned-draft pick for UConn and he’s made a pretty decent career for himself in Atlanta. He finally cemented his place in the starting lineup last year, playing in 14 games and racking up 14 tackles with seven passes defended. Despite his breakout season, Wreh-Wilson will be locked in a fierce position battle at cornerback with highly-rated rookie AJ Terrell out of Clemson.

Andrew Adams, S, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Between Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Andrew Adams, there’s a new super team forming in Tampa Bay. Gronkowski and Brady clearly followed Adams’ to Tampa Bay after he moved to the Buccaneers in 2018. Adams started 14 games in 2019 and was a bulldozer at free safety with 46 tackles, three of them for a loss. He’s also another former UConn player who faces stiff competition from a recent Buccaneers draftee, with (want to feel old?) Antoine Winfield Jr. arriving from Minnesota in the 2020 draft.

Tim Boyle, QB, Green Bay Packers

Although Boyle didn’t finish his college career at UConn, he still managed to parlay his one year as a starter at the FBS level into a two-year career backing up Aaron Rodgers at Green Bay, where he saw very limited game time in 2019.

Tyler Davis, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars

The second Husky in the NFL not to finish his career with UConn, Davis had a very productive career at Storrs. He played in all 12 games in the two years that he was completely healthy and was a reliable option in Randy Edsall’s offense during his return to the team. After a productive 17-reception, 148-yard receiving performance at Georgia Tech, Davis was drafted in the 6th round by the Seahawks then promptly traded to Jacksonville.