September 5 marks the deadline for all National Football League teams to complete their 53-man rosters. Nine Owls were drafted, two of which, Bryce Callahan and Christian Covington, made an NFL roster for the first time.
The Chicago Bears signed Callahan as an undrafted free agent. During the preseason, Callahan saw time at cornerback and on special teams. He recorded six tackles during the preseason, with his best game coming in the final preseason game against the Cleveland Browns in which he got the start, had three tackles and a recorded a pass defended. The Bears will use him mostly on special teams with a few occasional snaps on defense.
The Houston Texans drafted Christian Covington as a sixth-round draft pick. Throughout the preseason, Covington has received tremendous praise from coaches and players about his attitude and skill. In four preseason games, Covington recorded 10 tackles, and has now secured one of five defensive line spots for the Texans.
According to Texans Head Coach Bill O’Brien, Covington is a versatile player who can make an impact on the Texans’ defense.
“I see him in different roles,” O’Brien said. “He’s very active. He gets off blocks and makes plays.”
James Casey, the longest tenured Rice Owl in the NFL, is entering his seventh season in the league. Casey is listed as the starting fullback for the Denver Broncos and finished the preseason with three catches for 30 yards. For his career, Casey has 72 receptions for 842 yards and six touchdowns.
Besides Callahan, the Owls have two other defensive backs are on NFL rosters: Phillip Gaines of the Kansas City Chiefs and Andrew Sendejo of the Minnesota Vikings. Entering his second year, Gaines earned a starting spot this season after a strong second half of his rookie year. Last season, Gaines recorded 20 tackles and defended four passes while starting five games. In a strong preseason, Sendejo recorded 15 tackles with one pass defended. Sendejo is currently listed as a backup to start the season.
Rice’s last defensive player on a NFL roster is Rice career sack leader Scott Solomon. Solomon, an outside linebacker for the Cleveland Browns, is looking to earn a starting spot this season. During the preseason, Scott started three games and recorded five tackles.
Rounding out the Owls in the NFL are tight ends Vance McDonald and Luke Willson, both are entering their third seasons. McDonald, a member of the San Francisco 49ers, has been overshadowed by all-pro tight end Vernon Davis throughout his first two years in the league. With Davis entering the final year of his current contract, McDonald is now looking to make a statement to become the starting tight end next season. Willson, a member of the Seattle Seahawks, also has an all-pro tight end ahead of him on the depth chart with the offseason acquisition of Jimmy Graham. In his career, Willson has caught 42 passes for 634 and four touchdowns.
Three Owls who played in preseason games did not make NFL rosters. Wide receiver Jordan Taylor was placed on the Broncos practice squad, while wide receiver Mario Hull was cut from the 49ers and kicker Chris Boswell was cut from the New York Giants.