Pirates Seeking Treasure in the NFL

As football season inches closer IES takes a look at former Pirates that have moved on to the NFL.

As East Carolina football sits just 44 days away from the kick off of the 2015-2016 season, Inside ECU Sports looks at the 11 former Pirates who are currently listed on NFL rosters. With the promising group of rising stars taking the field for the Pirates this fall, it is easy to overlook the talent that has passed through ECU’s program and made the jump to the NFL.

Beginning with the 2011 Dallas Cowboys sixth round draft pick, Dwayne Harris. In the four years spent with the Cowboys Harris recorded 2,000 yards of returning kick offs and nearly a thousand yards returning punts. After four years with the Cowboys, Harris signed a new 5-year contract this offseason to play for the New York Giants.

C.J. Wilson, Super Bowl winning lineman with the Green Bay Packers, was once a local star at ECU beginning his freshman year in 2006. In his final season at ECU Wilson started in all 14 games earning the second of his 1st team All-Conference honors, as well as defensive player of the year in Conference USA.

After spending his first three seasons with the Green Bay Packers, Wilson signed a two-year deal with the Oakland Raiders this offseason.

With the latest class of seniors to leave the ECU football program, five have are already began the process of making an NFL roster.

The only player to hear his name called during the NFL draft is the NCAA all-time leader in receptions, Justin Hardy. The 5-foot-10, 192-pound receiver was taken by the Atlanta Falcons in the fourth round.

The former walk on finished his ECU career with 387 receptions, 4,541 yards with 35 touchdown receptions. Hardy will pair up with veteran receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones. Former ECU play caller Shane Carden did not hear his called in the NFL draft, but was contacted by the Chicago Bears on draft night with interest in signing him as a free agent when he was not taken.

Carden signed his free agent contract with the Bears in May, making him the fourth quarterback on the roster. In his final season as a Pirate, Carden recorded 63.5 percent of his passes for 4,736 yards including 30 touchdowns.

In the same month of May, former Pirate Terry Williams signed a deal with the Chicago Bears. During his 37-game career at ECU, the nose tackle recorded 126 tackles, 17 tackles for losses and forced five.

Another key member of ECU’s defensive line last season was signed as a free agent after going undrafted. Defensive tackle Chrishon Rose signed a three year deal with the Minnesota Vikings. Former ECU walk on Cam Worthy has signed as a free agent this year with the Baltimore Ravens. Last season Worthy recorded over 1000 yards in receiving, catching four touchdowns on 55 receptions.

At 6-foot-3, 210-pounds Worthy will look to join Steve Smith Sr. and the rest of the Ravens receiving core next season.

After starting all 14 games at ECU, Willie Smith left the Pirates following his junior season. Smith went undrafted and was signed in 2011 by the Washington Redskins. After a year with the Redskins, Smith played for the Oakland Raiders and then for the San Diego Chargers.

Now entering his fifth year in the NFL, Smith has resigned with the Redskins. Smith has started 11 games in his NFL career.

Since leaving ECU after his junior year, defensive lineman Linval Joseph was chosen in the second round of the 2010 draft by the New York Giants. Joseph was a starter on the 2012 Super Bowl winning Giants. After becoming a free agent, Joseph signed a deal the Minnesota Vikings in 2014. Last season Joseph recorded 47 tackles and three sacks while starting all 16 games.

Lance Lewis began his collegiate career splitting is his first two years at two separate junior colleges. He joined the Pirates in the same time of the implantation of the spread offensive scheme and took full advantage of ample pass-catching opportunities.

After two years with the Pirates, Lewis was another undrafted free agent to sign with an NFL team. Lewis was recently picked up by his fourth team, the New Orleans Saints.

Standing at 6-foot-8, 310-pound offensive lineman Steven Baker left ECU following a successful senior season. After not being selected in the NFL draft, Baker was signed as a free agent by the colts in 2012.

Being bounced around between six teams in his first four years in the NFL, Baker has yet to settle in with a team and make an impact. The lineman signed a new deal last October to join the St. Louis Rams practice squad.

Former ECU running back Chris Johnson was taken in the first round of the 2008 draft by the Tennessee Titans, after recording the fastest 40-yard dash in NFL history of 4.24 seconds (still holds record). Continuing his success from ECU, Johnson broke onto the NFL scene and rushed for over a thousand yards in his first six years and was named the top running back and the AP NFL Offensive Player in 2009.

Last season with the New York Jets, Johnson finished with only one rushing touchdown of the year. Johnson now sits as an unsigned free agent as training camp and preseason football are fast approaching.

This is not a complete history of ECU players making NFL rosters. There are more in the past and the future looks bright for more ECU players to make the jump to the NFL.

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