Four Pirates Earn Pro Contracts

Four former ECU football players earned contracts from NFL teams, in addition to four more Pirates receiving invitations to try outs at NFL rookie mini-camps.

After the initial wave of East Carolina football players signing NFL contracts and accepting invitations to rookie minicamps post-draft, there have been just a few more Pirates to add to the list.

Strong safety Chip Thompson was contacted Sunday by the New York Giants for a tryout as was tailback Vintavious Cooper Thursday by the Detroit Lions.

For the third consecutive year, no ECU players heard their names called during the draft. However, four Pirates signed contracts with teams as free agents and with the additions of Cooper and Thompson, four more are expected to appear in mini-camps to compete for a deal.

Former ECU outside linebacker Derrell Johnson received several phone calls from interested NFL squads leading up to the draft's final day and appeared to be the school's most likely player to be picked, but the 6-foot-2, 264-pound Baltimore native was never selected.

Shortly after the draft, Johnson signed with the Miami Dolphins.

Johnson collected 14 tackles for loss – eight of them being sacks – and tied for a team-best 80 takedowns in 2013.

During the Pirates' pro day in March, offensive lineman Will Simmons, along with Johnson, drew a considerable amount of interest from NFL scouts – particularly from the Pittsburgh Steelers, who signed him as a free agent Saturday evening.

Simmons paved the way for Cooper to achieve back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons and protected a 4,000-yard passer in Shane Carden.

Defensive end Lee Pegues agreed to terms with the Chicago Bears, albeit he posted just 29 tackles and 4.5 sacks last fall. But for what he lacks on a stat sheet, the 6-foot-2, 294-pounder makes up for in athleticism, which attracted the Bears.

But the most intriguing physical specimen signed never played a down for the Pirates in 2013. Former ECU wide receiver Justin Jones, who was ruled academically ineligible prior to the season, rounded out Saturday's signees by becoming a member of the New England Patriots.

The 6-foot-8, 277-pound Jones will likely be approached as an experiment to create mismatches with his size as a tight end. His collegiate career began with high promise – hauling in a last-second hail mary to beat Tulsa in his first game as a freshman – but ended with great disappointment. He had 52 receptions in 32 games throughout his three-year tenure.

Strong safety Damon Magazu will have a three-day tryout with the Baltimore Ravens, while free safety Michael Dobson looks to earn a contract from the defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks.

Magazu, whose father – David – is the offensive line coach of the Denver Broncos, matched Johnson for a team-best 80 tackles and grabbed five interceptions last season. Meanwhile, Dobson was moved to free safety after spending the previous two years at running back.

Thompson was second on the team in pass deflections (10) and was revered by his coaches and teammates as an aggressive tackler in the secondary. He compiled 57 tackles in 2013, closing his two-year stint at ECU after transferring from Hinds Community College (Miss.).

Cooper, another JUCO transfer from Mississippi (Southwest Miss. CC), gained 1,193 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground last season. In Lincoln Riley's Air Raid offense, he surpassed the one thousand yard plateau in back-to-back seasons.

The last ECU player to get selected in the NFL draft was wide receiver Dwayne Harris. He was taken in the sixth round (176th overall) in the 2011 draft.


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