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Football: Former Cajuns on hand for Pro Day

The Advertiser, March 29, 2015


As UL’s 2015 pro football prospects auditioned in front of scouts from 31 NFL teams last Wednesday at the Ragin’ Cajuns’ Leon Moncla indoor practice facility, Darryl Surgent surveyed the field.

Many of Surgent’s days as a Cajun were spent inside the building.

Beyond that, though, it also was where not long ago the ex-UL receiver and return man had his own Pro Day experience.

“Oh, yeah,” said Surgent, an Alexandria Senior High product who left UL as its all-time kick return yards. “I had fun last year. We were just over there talking about that.”

Surgent was one of five former Cajuns who were seniors in the 2013 season, signed with NFL teams as undrafted free agents in 2014 and were on hand either watching or taking part last Wednesday for UL’s 2015 Pro Day.

Two — defensive lineman Brandon McCray, who was waived with a non-football illness by the New Orleans Saints last May, one week after signing, and tight end/fullback Ian Thompson, who was on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ practice for a week in late September — performed in front of the scouts for a second straight year at Pro Day.

Surgent was on the Kansas City Chiefs’ practice squad for a week in early September, then spent the final month of the 2014 CFL season on the Toronto Argonauts’ practice squad.

He’s on Toronto’s offseason roster now, and plans on going to training camp with the Argonauts before their CFL season opens in June.

Tight end Jacob Maxwell was in training camp last summer with the Detroit Lions, spent more than a month in September and early October on the Miami Dolphins’ practice squad and, a week later, was signed to the Chicago Bears’ practice squad for the final 12 weeks of the season.

Maxwell, from Pearl River High, currently is on the Bears’ offseason roster.

Then there’s linebacker Justin Anderson, who was on Minnesota’s practice squad late last season and was on the Vikings’ offseason roster until being waived last Thursday.

He played in two NFL games for the New York Giants last November, debuting on special teams against the San Francisco 49ers.

Last year at Pro Day, Anderson said last week, “I was nervous, just like everybody else.”

Going to training camp with the Giants, spending time on their practice squad and actually playing in regular-season games, however, easily trumped made whatever anxiety he had to deal with.

“It means a lot — even if was with just one team that thought you could play,” Anderson, UL’s leading tackler as both a junior and senior, said of making it to the NFL.

“It means a lot because you work hard, you work your whole life for this. This is what we’ve been dreaming of since we were kids, and even if it was just one team, or however many teams, it just makes it all worth it.”

As he prepares for what he hopes will be a second NFL training camp, Anderson — from Foley (Alabama) High — said he’s working on “just getting better, stronger, trying to get a leg up on the competition.”

“Now that I have a year under my belt, and know what it takes, and have seen it, and with own eyes experienced it,” he said, “I feel like my chances are a lot better this year.”

Maxwell, who spent two seasons splitting starting time with Thomas and three (including one as a redshirt) playing behind ex-UL and current San Diego Chargers tight end Ladarius Green, feels the same.

“I know what I can do,” Maxwell said last week. “When it comes down to it, it’s about just being able to play ball.”

The key to breaking through and making a regular-season roster, he suggested, simply boils down to getting a chance.

With veteran NFL coach John Fox replacing the fired Bears head coach Marc Trestman, the ex-Cajun tight end will have new eyes on him in Chicago.

“It’s all about opportunities – just being able to get into training camp, and putting on pads, and showing those guys what I can do, especially with a new coaching staff,” Maxwell said.

For Surgent, one door, with the Chiefs, led to another, with the Argonauts.

Which opens next — whether it’s remaining in Toronto, and the CFL, or eventually going elsewhere, perhaps back to trying to make it in the NFL — remains to be seen.

“My biggest thing was I didn’t have any (pro game) film, being that I was in Kansas City for a short time,” Surgent said. “I’ll go out there (to Toronto) and get some film, and show them that I can play soon, and go from there.”


Catching up with a few of the UL football team’s 2013-season seniors:

LB Justin Anderson: Played two games last season with the New York Giants; waived last Thursday by Minnesota and currently unsigned

TE Jacob Maxwell: Finished last season on Chicago’s practice squad; currently on the Bears’ offseason roster

DL Brandon McCray: Spent one offseason week with the New Orleans Saints last May; currently unsigned

WR/KR Darryl Surgent: Ended last season on CFL Toronto’s practice squad; currently on the Argonauts’ roster

TE Ian Thompson: Was on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ practice squad for one week last season; currently unsigned