Virginia Tech’s undrafted rookies signed with NFL teams Tuesday, July 26, after the NFL lockout ended the morning of July 25.
The NFL Players Association unanimously agreed Monday, July 25 to the 10-year collective bargaining agreement presented by NFL team owners on Thursday, July 21.
The 136-day work stoppage was the longest in NFL history, and football fans can now breathe a sigh of relief – the NFL is back. Probably the most relieved, however, are the undrafted rookies who will now get a shot at their dream of playing on Sundays.
Eight of Tech’s rookie free agents signed NFL contracts Tuesday: running back Darren Evans with the Indianapolis Colts, tight end Andre Smith with the Chicago Bears, defensive tackle John Graves with the Houston Texans, safety Davon Morgan with the New York Jets, defensive end Steven Friday with the Houston Texans, center Beau Warren with the St. Louis Rams, place-kicker Chris Hazley with the Buffalo Bills, and punter Brian Saunders with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The lockout has been a long four months for these former Hokie greats.
“It’s been pretty tough,” Saunders said. “Everything’s been crazy and up in the air. It kept getting put off, and you never know what to do.”
NFL team facilities didn’t open until Tuesday, so players had to motivate themselves during the lockout. Many of Tech’s undrafted rookies worked out together.
“I’ve been training with Coach Gentry and Coach Ferguson at Virginia Tech,” Graves said. “They put us through the same workout routine as when we played for Tech, with a little extra conditioning.”
“I’ve been kicking three to four times a week on the practice field at Tech,” Saunders said.
Some players tried to focus on other things.
“I stopped kicking for a few weeks once the lockout started, just to take a mental break,” Hazley said. “Five weeks ago I started working at Lincoln Financial Group as an Inbound sales representative. I sold variable annuities, financial investments and retirement savings – basically a lot of things I don’t understand yet.”
When the Bills called Hazley, his boss at Lincoln Financial understood his situation.
“She congratulated me and told me I had to go,” Hazley said. “She said I should get out of here. I think this will just count toward my vacation days.
“Having a job made things easier because it kept me busy and took my mind off the lockout. I tried not to get frustrated about things I couldn’t control,” Hazley said.
The stress of waiting more than four months makes days like Tuesday even more special for these players.
“I am blessed to have this opportunity and I thank God for everything,” Morgan said in a Tuesday morning tweet.