Pitt Players Land Free Agent Deals

After being shutout of the NFL Draft or the first time since 1999, and the eighth tiime in the 77-year history of the NFL Draft, Pitt players start inking rookie free agent contracts early Saturday evening.

With no players selected among the 253 players taken in the 2012 NFL Draft, Pitt players were quickly signed by NFL teams as rookie free agents almost as soon as the final pick was called.

Lucas Nix started things off, announcing via Twitter that he would sign a rookie free agent contract with the Oakland Raiders--choosing the Raiders over an opportunity to sign with the hometown Pittsburgh Steelers. Nix made 33 career starts on the offensive line, starting at both right tackle and right guard.

Brandon Lindsey did take advantage of an opportunity to sign with the hometown Steelers. Earlier in the day, the Steelers drafted former Valley Viking receiver Toney Clemons. Both Clemons and Lindsey were members of the 2007 WPIAL class. Lindsey made 24 starts the last two seasons--a time where he has played as a rush end in a 4-3, a standing end in. 3-4 and as a down lineman in a 3-4. Lindsey led Pitt with 10 sacks in 2010, and finished with 8.5 sacks despite being flushed around different positions as a senior.

Max Gruder signed with the Atlanta Falcons. Gruder started all 39 games the last three seasons, and led the team in tackles with 116 this past season as a senior, and 91 as a sophomore in 2009. Interestingly, Gruder is a native of Charlotte, NC, but his folks have since relocated to the Tampa Bay area--making Atlanta somewhat of a halfway point between both homes.

Chas Alecxih fielded as many as a dozen calls from NFL teams before signing with the Miami Dolphins. Alecxih, Gruder and Buddy Jackson all spent considerable time in Naples, Florida training for the NFL Combine and Pro Day. Alecxih initially came to Pitt as a preferred walk-on before earning a scholarship in his third year with the program. He started all 26 games the last two seasons at defensive tackle, and finished with 57 tackles in both seasons.

Cornerback Antwuan Reed will be reunited with former Pitt stars Jason Pinkston and Jabaal Sheard with the Cleveland Browns. Buddy Jackson--who stole the show at the Pitt Pro Day with an 11-9 broad jump--signs with the Indianapolis Colts. Linebacker Greg Williams signs with the Houston Texans.

While it's no doubt a disappointment to the program that it's the first time in 13 years--even considering losing seasons in 1999 and 2005, that 2011 marks the first time since then that Pitt has been shutout. Former Panthers have, however, found some recent success via the rookie free agent signings. Former cornerback Aaron Berry went undrafted, then signed with the Detroit Lions in 2010. Berry made the team, and started the 2010 opener. Unfortunately he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury, but he turned to make three starts and play in 11 games in 2011.

Lousaka Polite went undrafted in 2004, then signed with the Dallas Cowboys. Polite spent three seasons in Dallas, one with Chicago, three with Miami, before joining up with New England. He was released by the Dolphins after training camp, and did not sign with the Patriots until later in the season, but he was with the team for Super Bowl XLVI.

Then, just this past year, Dom DeCicco and Henry Hynoski inked rookie free agent contracts with the Chicago Bears and New York Giants, respectively. DeCicco--a safety in his time at Pitt--earned a spot as a linebacker for the Bears, and played in all 16 games as a rookie, mostly on special teams. Hynoski saw considerable time for the Giants ground game, on his way to earning a Super Bowl ring as a rookie.

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