Marquardt, Burgess Relish in NFL Opportunity

There's no denying that being selected in the NFL draft definitely carries a lot prestige. Yet ultimately, just like players who were drafted, free agents such as Michael Marquardt and Rudy Burgess will get the same opportunity to showcase their skills for an NFL team. Thus, the two outgoing ASU seniors are just as thrilled to start their professional career.

"I'm very excited," said defensive tackle Michael Marquardt who was signed by the Cincinnati Bengals. "They (the Bengals) were not pursuing me before the draft and came out of nowhere, but they present the best opportunity for me so I'm happy to go there."

The 6-3 294 Marquardt added that he felt that the Indianapolis Colts, Philadelphia Eagles and Carolina Panthers were teams that showed great interest in him prior to the draft.

The tackle started all 23 games he played in Tempe, and earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors both years. He was a two-time First-Team Pac-10 All-Academic selection and was named a semifinalist for the 2007 Draddy Trophy, nicknamed the "Academic Hesiman" He collected 48 career tackles at ASU with 9.0 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.

Marquardt stated that he fully expected not to get drafted and be selected as a free agent, which made the whole draft process much easier on him. "I think that the free agency thing will work out better for me in the long term," he claimed. "You're not obligated to the team, and sometimes you just don't like the team and the city you got drafted to. As a free agent you get to choose the best situation for you. While the bonus money isn't as lucrative (laughs), it's a better long term investment to be a free agent."

The defensive tackle and his wife feel like "on cloud nine" for this opportunity, and the journey starts this weekend with a rookie mini-camp in Cincinnati. "Some teams have the veterans practice with the rookies," Marquardt explained, "and some teams, like the Bengals just have the rookies in mini-camp. I like that better with just the rookies because that way you get to know each other."

Familiarity almost caused wide receiver Rudy Burgess to reunite with former head coach Dirk Koetter, and sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars where Koetter serves as the offensive coordinator. Contrary to reports from Jacksonville, Burgess never signed with the Jags and actually opted to join former teammate and second round selection Mike Pollak, and sign with the Indianapolis Colts.

"The Jaguars were after me," said the 5-10 185 Burgess, "but they had a lot of wide receivers and kick returners on the roster. So I felt that the Colts were the better situation for me…it was tempting to go with Coach Koetter though…"

Burgess was one of the most versatile athletes and one of the top all-purpose threats in the nation during his Sun Devil career. He played wide receiver, tailback, cornerback, kickoff and punt returner and has also thrown a touchdown pass during his Sun Devil career. Became only one of 14 players in FBS history to record over 1,000 rushing, receiving and returns yards. He was a one of only four all-time Pac-10 Conference players and one of only three active athletes in 2007 to have earned that distinction, and the only player in ASU football history to achieve that mark.

In contrary to Marquardt, Burgess wasn't surprised that the Colts wanted him to sign with their organization, and noted that the interest level of the Superbowl XLI champions was high for a while. "I expected to get picked up as a free agent," said Burgess. "I'm in a good situation and just like those who get drafted I get the same chance to show what I can do on the field."

Including the aforementioned tandem, five former ASU players were signed as free agents. Safety Zach Catanese, who actually exhausted his eligibility in 2006 and suffered a severe leg injury at the end of his career, was signed by the New York Jets. Tight end Tyrice Thompson signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while offensive lineman Brandon Rodd was inked by the Oakland Raiders.

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