Tennant Leads Eagles-Turned-Pro
Published: Monday, April 26, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
Four Boston College Eagles will have a new home in the NFL next season, but despite all of the success on the Heights, only center Matt Tennant heard his name called during the three-day NFL Draft extravaganza.
BC football has made a living of producing players who fly under the radar. Sure, Matt Ryan and Gosder Cherilus got the glory and signing bonus of a top-20 pick, but they had early hype that none of the current crop of graduating players had. The outgoing seniors were part of one of BC's greatest success stories, but like the Eagles as a whole, they had knocks against them.
Tennant doesn't have the upper body strength for the next level. Marcellus Bowman prefers to go for the big hit too often. Rich Gunnell doesn't have the speed. Ditto for Mike McLaughlin.
Shortcomings may have damaged Tennant's draft stock and knocked the other three out of the draft entirely, but they didn't have to wait long to find out where they'll be playing football next season.
Tennant was projected by most to fall somewhere in the third round, but when Friday night's proceedings came to a close, the Eagles' offensive-line pivot man was still without a team. He had to wait through another 59 picks on Saturday before landing with the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in the fifth round at No. 158 overall.
"I'm going to go in and learn from the best," he told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "[I want to] push the guys ahead of me every day."
The best happens to be Pro Bowl center Jonathan Goodwin, with Tennant looking to be groomed as a successor to the 31-year-old. And the man Tennant will be responsible for getting the ball to? Just four-time Pro Bowler Drew Brees.
Sean Payton and crew coveted the second team all-ACC center enough to trade into the fifth round to nab him. The Saints most likely had a higher round grade on Tennant, and seeing him still sitting there in the fifth, couldn't wait any longer to grab him.
With very minimal immediate expectations, a championship team, and a seemingly guaranteed roster spot, Tennant landed in the best position of any of the Eagles.
For Bowman, Gunnell, and McLaughlin, the road of an undrafted free agent is a tough one, but as each year passes, the list of successful players who never heard their name called grows exponentially.
The 2010 draft class as a whole was regarded as deep and talented, meaning players like McLaughlin – the only one of the trio who held a projected shot of hearing his name called – would be forced to wait to put pen to paper on a deal.
The good news is that, unlike their counterparts drafted in the seventh round, the undrafted free agents can choose where they want to try and fight their way onto a roster.
McLaughlin was a two-year captain in Chestnut Hill, but will have to take a backseat as a member of the Baltimore Ravens, as he gets to work behind and learn from one of the NFL's best defensive leaders, Ray Lewis. While an Achilles injury sapped McLaughlin of some of his athleticism, the Ravens saw enough to bring him in with the hope of helping perhaps the best defensive unit of the decade.
While Tennant's NFL prospects were helped by the popular perception of BC as "O-Line U," Gunnell was probably hurt by the Eagles' inability to put much receiving talent into the league. Gunnell finished his career as the all-time leading receiver in program history, but, despite blowing past the athletic USC secondary in the Emerald Bowl, had to answer questions about his speed. Kansas City Chiefs GM Scott Pioli didn't have any qualms bringing Gunnell into the fold, though, and with very little proven NFL talent behind Dwayne Bowe and Chris Chambers, Gunnell stands a decent chance at sticking with Kansas City.
Bowman was the force at the back of BC's defense, and his hard hitting could provide him with a role in the Denver Broncos' aging secondary. Both of Denver's safeties have been in the league for a decade or longer, and an infusion of youth could prevent another 2-8 finish like the one that kept them out of the playoffs in 2009.
Tennant should be firmly entrenched in the Big Easy, but his former teammates will have to fight and claw for their spots. It's never an easy task, but if BC fans have learned anything the past few seasons, it's that an Eagle can never be counted out.