Tennessee State has two prospects at Senior Bowl
(STATS) - Had his football career worked out at Clemson, Tennessee State defensive end Ebenezer Ogundeko would have been playing, and perhaps starting, in the national championship game earlier this month.
While a player who transfers from an FBS program is usually enthused about getting a second chance at an FCS program, there's probably a feeling that his NFL future has been diminished.
In another year, Ogundeko figures to find out what his former Tennessee State teammates, offensive lineman Jessamen Dunker, who played previously at Florida, and cornerback Ezra Robinson, a Michigan State transfer, are realizing this week. They are participating at the Senior Bowl - the nation's premier all-star game.
"It's always good to know that you can take another path and then reach the same destination," eighth-year Tennessee State coach Rod Reed said, "and that's what these guys have done."
Tennessee State has a solid history of producing NFL players, most notably cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but also the likes of Demetrius Rhaney, Anthony Levine, Kadeem Edwards, Robert Myers and Anthony Morris under Reed.
Not only do Dunker and Robinson make Tennessee State the only school below the FBS level with a pair of Senior Bowl participants, but the two have also been invited to the NFL Combine next month.
"It's pretty special to have two guys representing the university in two prestigious events like that," Reed said.
Dunker is the more regarded prospect, possibly bound for the mid to late rounds of the April 27-29 draft in Philadelphia. At 6-foot-5, 305 pounds, he projects as an offensive guard.
He left the Florida program in 2013 following a redshirt season, and after off-the-field issues and a team suspension. He was a four-year starter at Tennessee State, where as a senior left tackle, he anchored an offensive line that surrendered the fewest sacks in the Ohio Valley Conference.
"He ran into a few hiccups down at Florida and we decided to give him a second-chance opportunity here and he came and he took care of his business and did what he was supposed to do," Reed said. "It wasn't always an easy hill to climb, but he made it through and here's a kid who ended up with a college degree and an opportunity to represent us at the Senior Bowl and at the Combine. More so than that, give himself an opportunity to play at the next level.
"I think the only thing (NFL teams) want to know is he's a tough, physical kid - that's what he does. He's a really good athlete when you watch him pull and you watch him pass-set. You watch him run, he's really athletic. He's one of those kind of guys that at this level we would think he could play at defensive tackle or something like that on the other side of the ball. He's a kid that picks up well, he does football things really well, he did a good job in the classroom. But I think what they want to see is how tough he is, how physical he is, how agile he is."
The 6-foot, 180-pound Robinson played his redshirt freshman season at Michigan State in 2013 before transferring to Tennessee State a year later. In East Lansing, he pleaded guilty to underage drinking and driving, but avoided jail time with a fine and participation in an alcohol-safety program.
He broke out as a senior at Tennessee State with his good ball skills and an excellent vertical leap. He recorded five interceptions, returning two for touchdowns, and had eight pass breakups.
"We're very familiar with that (Sarasota, Florida) area, very familiar with Ezra coming out of high school," Reed said. "We followed him up to Michigan State. When time came for him to transfer, and things didn't work out there, we talked with him, we decided it was something he could do, and he came here and he's done really well.
"What they're looking for I think at the next level these days are tall, rangy (cornerbacks) that can run and are willing tacklers. He's all three of those. He's about 5-11, 6-foot tall, and he's a sub-4.4 guy."
Dunker and Robinson remain teammates at the Senior Bowl, both on the South roster. Defensive ends Keionta Davis of Chattanooga and Tanoh Kpassagnon of Villanova and Grambling State wide receiver Chad Williams are other South players from the FCS.
Former FCS players on the North squad are Bucknell offensive tackle Julie'n Davenport, Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp, Lamar cornerback Brendan Langley, Saint Francis free safety Lorenzo Jerome and Youngstown State defensive end Derek Rivers.