Hartline, four other undrafted Cats signed to NFL rosters

After 255 selections spanning three days at the end of April, the UK football program saw just one of its own selected in the NFL draft, Randall Cobb, who was taken by the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers with the 64th selection.

Over the next three months, other former Cats with NFL aspirations waited patiently for the lockout to end — and when it did earlier this week — awaited offers from teams to be signed as undrafted free agents.

Four former UK football stars have signed offers thus far: defensive end DeQuin Evans will sign with the Cincinnati Bengals, quarterback Mike Hartline will enter training camp as an Indianapolis Colt, defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin will head west to sign with the Arizona Cardinals and wide receiver Chris Matthews plans to sign with the Cleveland Browns.

Running back Derrick Locke was originally to sign with the Minnesota Vikings, but he announced on his Facebook page Wednesday that he failed his physical. He now plans to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles.

None of these players will be permitted to sign until they report to their respective teams later this week.

Evans, who played two years at UK, will attempt to catch on with the Bengals as a pass rusher and run-stopper on the defensive line. As a junior, Evans received fourth-team all-SEC honors and was named the team’s defensive MVP by the coaching staff.

Hartline, who had his most impressive year as a senior, making UK’s offense one of the most efficient offenses in the SEC, will try out to become a backup quarterback to all-pro Peyton Manning. Hartline will join his brother, Brian Hartline, in the ranks of professional football. Brian Hartline plays wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins.

Lumpkin was a four-year player for the Cats, playing in 44 games and starting 29. He will attempt to stick with the Cardinals as a defensive tackle who can provide emotional leadership and a big body to clog the trenches and blow up running plays in their tracks.

Finally, Matthews, will look to stay on with the Cleveland Browns, a young team in the process of rebuilding for the future. Unlike Locke of Cobb, Matthews does not have the break away speed or agility required to return kicks at an NFL level, but he provides a large 6’4″ frame for Browns quarterback and Texas’ all-time winningest quarterback Colt McCoy, and a blocker on the outside of Browns running back and new Madden cover boy Peyton Hillis.

“I am very happy that these five guys are going to get their chance at playing in the National Football League,” UK head coach Joker Phillips said in a UK Athletics release. “These signings really speak to the growth of the program that we have had here at Kentucky. We have now had 32 players sign NFL contracts over the last four years and that speaks volumes to the success we have been able to have. I look forward to watching these five play on Sundays in the future.”