Former 'Jacks Performing Well at NFL Camps
Aug. 8, 2013
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Free agent contract. In the world of sports those three simple words have a different meaning to different people. To the average sports fan it could mean the professional high point of an athlete's career - a former standout at the collegiate level whose career will come to an end during camp, but something you can still be proud of. To the athlete, it means an opportunity. For just about any athlete, that is all they ask for, just an opportunity.
For three former Stephen F. Austin All-Americans - Josh Aubrey, Cordell Roberson and Willie Jefferson - an opportunity is just what they received from the NFL and they are taking advantage. Aubrey and Roberson signed free agent contracts with the Cleveland Browns, while Jefferson signed with the Houston Texans.
A 5-11, 200-pound cornerback from Tyler, Texas, Aubrey came to Nacogdoches along with his brother Jordan. The duo always wanted to play college ball together, and SFA gave them that opportunity, but it was SFA that came away with the better end of that deal. Both players earned all-conference honors at SFA, including Josh who finished his senior year earning All-America honors. A four-year starter at SFA, Aubrey's hard work has continued to impress the Cleveland Browns coaching staff despite a position change.
"He has really developed since the spring," said Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski. "I've really noticed a big improvement. He's a guy taking advantage of the opportunities. He's getting chances for reps and he's making good with them. That is what you like seeing out of guys this time of year."
Josh came out of college as a corner, but was moved to safety during Browns camp. This switch has been made easier by the fact that he has been able to utilize Jordan as a source due his time at safety with SFA.
Josh has also taken advantage of injuries to players ahead of him on the depth chart to work his way up the ladder. Following an injury to T.J. Ward, Josh stepped into the strong safety spot and got in some work with the first-team defense.
It has been a similar rise for Jefferson. Unlike Aubrey and Roberson, Jefferson transferred to SFA from Baylor. After spending two seasons on the offensive side of the ball, the Lumberjack coaching staff decided to take advantage of his skills on the defensive side of the ball. The move was a stroke of genius as Jefferson was named the league newcomer of the year in 2011, and garnered All-America attention last season.
The Texans have bulked Jefferson up to 250 pounds, and moved him from his defensive end spot to linebacker. Also similar to Aubrey's rise with the Browns, Jefferson has taken advantage of opportunities due to injuries above him on the depth chart. Jefferson has spent time working with the first-team defense following a hamstring injury to Whitney Mercilus.
"Willie's been good," said head coach Gary Kubiak. "(He) hasn't missed a rep. He's kept up with what we're doing. He's kept up with (ST Coordinator) Joe (Marciano), so Willie's got a tremendous opportunity to help this football team quickly. We'll see how he does in the game when the lights are on."
Following Kubiak's praise of Jefferson media attention was focused on the Beaumont, Texas native, and he became the focal point of several interviews. Jefferson even took some snaps against the Texans Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown and was holding his own against the standout offensive lineman.
A native of Jefferson, Texas, Roberson has also been turning heads with the Browns. A two-time All-American receiver who re-wrote the SFA record books, and graduated with several conference records was considered one of the standout rookies from the Browns' minicamp.
Roberson caught the eye of Browns Blog senior editor Vic Carucci. "One of the more impressive players during the workouts was wide receiver Cordell Roberson, an undrafted free agent from Stephen F. Austin," said Carucci. "At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, he has the necessary physique to fit the Browns' ideal profile for a perimeter receiver. Roberson showed good explosiveness off the line and consistency in catching the ball."
As the Browns and Texans begin to look ahead to the start of the regular season, it still remains to be seen whether SFA's trio of free agent signees will make the roster, but one thing is for sure - all three have taken advantage of the opportunity they have been given.