A veteran player in a new uniform, a rookie headed in the right direction and a well-deserved honor for an all-time great highlight the things to watch for this season among University of Virginia alumni in the National Football League.
Week one of the NFL season kicks off Thursday night with the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams hosting the Buffalo Bills.
Eight former Cavaliers – Joey Blount (Seattle Seahawks); Bryce Hall (New York Jets); Rodney McLeod and Jelani Woods (Indianapolis Colts); Morgan Moses (Baltimore Ravens); Bryce Perkins (Rams); Juan Thornhill (Kansas City Chiefs); and Olamide Zaccheaus (Atlanta Falcons) – are among those on the opening day rosters for seven teams.
After six successful seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, McLeod signed with the Colts in April.
The safety was a steady contributor – and model citizen – during his time in Philly, collecting 11 interceptions and making more than 300 tackles. He was a starter and tallied six tackles in the Eagles’ win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4, 2018, the franchise’s only Super Bowl title.
McLeod, who went undrafted out of UVA, will begin his 11th NFL season on Sunday when the Colts take on the Houston Texans.
Rodney McLeod with the pick ‼️
: FOX pic.twitter.com/whW7qq2ORy
Blount is already on a McLeod-like path in the NFL. He’s another undrafted safety trying to defy the odds.
The rookie, who made the All-Atlantic Coast Conference third team with UVA in 2019, signed with the Seahawks in April and impressed enough in August training camp to make the September roster. He totaled 14 tackles across three preseason games, while also shining on special teams for Seattle with an onside kick recovery against the Chicago Bears on Aug. 18.
“Joey had a great camp,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told Seattle-area reporters. “He just had a great camp and made plays on special teams, which was where it really started. It’s a classic illustration of the guy making some noise on teams, and we look at him to see if he can support and help us in the position, and he did a really good job at that as well. But I give it to him on special teams – that really won him his spot.”
.@JoeyBlount8 x #GoHawks pic.twitter.com/nBJdN2Eaja
Woods, McLeod’s teammate in Indy, was the UVA’s lone draft pick in April. The tight end, a third-round selection, caught a touchdown pass in the Colts’ first preseason game on Aug. 13.
Sam Ehlinger connects with Jelani Woods for a Colts touchdown pic.twitter.com/3pQl298dLV
Woods is listed as the third tight end on the Colts’ depth chart headed into their Week 1 matchup with the Houston Texans.
Perkins, a reserve quarterback for the Rams, was the lone former Wahoo to earn a Super Bowl ring last season.
He could be in for a repeat.
Rings and things pic.twitter.com/MZ0B9f282j
The Rams, according to the oddsmakers at Caesars Sportsbook in Las Vegas, have 12-1 odds to again win the NFL’s top prize. They have the fifth-best title shot behind Thornhill’s Chiefs (11-1 odds), the Green Bay Packers (11-1), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (15-2) and Buffalo Bills (6-1).
D’Brickashaw Ferguson remains one of the greatest offensive linemen in UVA history. The left tackle’s decorated career in Charlottesville ended with a consensus first-team All-American honor in 2005. His No. 66 jersey was retired by the Cavaliers seven years later during a ceremony at Scott Stadium.
Ferguson’s outstanding professional career is getting a similar treatment.
The New York Jets, for whom Ferguson played all 10 of his NFL seasons, are inducting Ferguson into their Ring of Honor on Oct. 30 during the Jets’ home game with the New England Patriots.
Three of the greatest to ever wear the Green & White will be enshrined this fall.
Ferguson was a three-time Pro Bowl selection in New York, earning an “Iron Man” reputation as he never missed a game from 2006 to 2015.
Two prominent alumni are coming to your television screen this NFL season.
Melissa Stark, a 1995 graduate, will make her official debut as NBC’s sideline reporter during Thursday’s Bills-Rams matchup. She’ll be part of the broadcast team – joining Mike Tirico and Cris Collinsworth – for all NBC Sunday night games. The primetime presentation is routinely the most watched game of a given week.
Stark, who discussed her career with media studies students during a visit to her alma mater last spring, served as a sideline reporter for ABC’s “Monday Night Football” for three seasons (2000-02) and has been a host and reporter for NFL Network since 2011.
Tiki Barber, a former standout UVA running back who earned ACC Player of the Year honors in 1996, will again be a game analyst for CBS this season. He’ll be in the broadcast booth in Houston on Sunday to cover Colts-Texans.
University News Associate University Communications
[email protected] (434) 924-6856
September 8, 2022