Canisius High School product John Urschel became the latest Western New Yorker drafted into the NFL on Saturday.
Urschel heard his name called in the fifth round by the Baltimore Ravens, with the 175th overall selection.
“It feels fantastic,” Urschel said. “Believe me, I’m honored and I’m humbled.”
Urschel, a 6-foot-3, 313-pound interior lineman from Williamsville, earned All-Big 10 honors during his past two seasons at Penn State. He was a third-team All-American in 2013.
“I’m in the best shape of my life,” he said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I just want to be able to make the most of it.”
Urschel’s intelligence – he carried a 4.0 grade-point average at Penn State and earned the William V. Campbell Trophy, known as the academic Heisman – was a hot topic when he was interviewed by Baltimore reporters.
“If you want to get something going, we can get a blackboard,” he told them, when asked if could teach statistics. “Listen, I’ll do whatever they need.”
Urschel explained how his intelligence translates to the football field.
“I think it definitely helps. I really take the mental aspect of the game very seriously, especially when it comes to breaking down film, seeing what my opponents do, even just in how I look at the defense on a given play just trying to see what they’re showing me and what they’re trying to do,” he said.
Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome indicated intelligence is one of the most important traits he looks for when evaluating offensive linemen. “This kid that we just got is at the top of the charts for that, and we’re looking forward to bringing him in,” he said.
Urschel becomes just the second player from Canisius High School to be drafted into the NFL – joining fullback Vince Amoia, who was selected in the 11th round by the New York Jets in 1986.
Should Urschel make the Ravens’ 53-man roster, he’ll have a chance to become only the second Canisius product to ever play in a regular-season game, joining Phil McConkey.
Urschel will be tried at both guard and center by the Ravens.
“He’s capable of playing all three,” Newsome said. “We’ll just figure out where he best fits for us.”
University at Buffalo wide receiver Alex Neutz, a Grand Island native, confirmed to The Buffalo News on Saturday night that he will sign as an undrafted free agent with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Neutz, 6-3 and 214 pounds, ended his career at UB with a school record 31 touchdown catches. He was named a first-team All-Mid-American Conference in 2013 after finishing with 61 catches for 1,024 yards and 12 TDs.
Meanwhile according to the Toledo Blade, running back David Fluellen (Lockport) has signed as a rookie free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles. Fluellen averaged 124 yards rushing per game and nearly 6.0 yards per carry his final two seasons with the Toledo Rockets. With Urschel, Neutz and Fluellen joining rosters Saturday and the recent signing of Buffalo native Naaman Roosevelt by the Detroit Lions, there are now 11 Western New Yorkers on current NFL rosters. Additionally, former UB running back Branden Oliver confirmed to The News late Saturday night that he will sign as an undrafted free agent with the Indianapolis Colts.