5 former Cats find NFL homes

Morgan Newton throws a pass against WKU

Morgan Newton makes a pass against Western Kentucky University on Thursday, September 1, 2011, in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo by Latara Appleby | Staff

By Quinn Schwartz | @KyKernelSports

sports@kykernel.com

The UK football team finished with a 2-10 record in 2012, but that hasn’t stopped five players from last season’s roster from signing with NFL teams this offseason.

Larry Warford was the only UK player to be selected in the 2013 NFL Draft, but Morgan Newton, Matt Smith, Collins Ukwu and Martavius Neloms have since signed free agent contracts.

The Detroit Lions liked what they saw in 6-foot-3, 340-pound guard Warford enough to select him the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

Warford credited much of his preparedness for the NFL to the competition level of the SEC in a pre-draft interview with CheeseheadTV.

“They (SEC linemen) are NFL linemen so I feel like I am pretty well prepared,” Warford said.  “They are really strong, really fast guys in the SEC and that meant the world to me.”

Warford signed four-year contract with Detroit, the contract is worth three years with $3 million guaranteed as well as a $700,000 signing bonus.

Fellow offensive guard, Matt Smith is also getting his shot at the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons. Smith will attend the Falcons’ summer camp with hopes of making the team’s final roster.

“I’ve been working hard to get here and all I want is a chance to make a team,” Smith said to UK Athletics at UK’s pro day on March 21.

Smith will certainly get that chance now, along with 24 other undrafted free agents that will compete for a roster spot this summer.

Fellow former Cat, Morgan Newton also managed to get his shot on an NFL roster with the New York Giants.

Newton made the freshman All-SEC team as a quarterback in 2009, but tried out at tight end in the Giants mini-camp where he earned himself a three-year contract worth $1.5 million at the position.

Defensive end, Collins Ukwu started 24 of his 35 football games with the Cats and now will be playing on the defensive side of the ball for the Minnesota Vikings.

Ukwu is guaranteed a three-year contract worth a total of $1.5 million.

Cornerback, Martavius Neloms was the final ex Cat to be picked up by an NFL team and will have a chance to play with Warford in Detroit.

SB Nation’s Pride of Detroit believe Neloms will have a difficult chance of making the team’s 53-man official roster. The Lions have both experience and depth at safety, but Neloms will attend the team’s summer camp in hopes to develop his game.

UPDATE:

The New York Giants announced on Thursay, May 30, that Morgan Newton has been released by the team. More here: bit.ly/ZwlBTt