After months of waiting and anticipation, four William and Mary football players signed with NFL teams Saturday.
Linebacker Adrian Tracy and defensive end Sean Lissemore were both taken in the latter stages of the NFL draft, while quarterback R.J. Archer and safety David Caldwell signed free-agent deals.
Tracy was selected by the New York Giants with the 184th overall pick as the 15th pick of the sixth round of the draft, while Lissemore was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys with the 234th pick as the 27th pick of the seventh round.
Archer signed with the Minnesota Vikings as a rookie free agent; Caldwell did the same with the
Wide receiver D.J. McAulay also earned an invitation to the Giants minicamp later this week, but has not signed a full contract.
“I was very excited for all four of them,” Head Coach Jimmye Laycock said. “That’s what they have been working towards and that’s what they have been hoping for. I’ve seen a lot of guys get their
hopes up and [have] things not work out, but this is a great opportunity, and I’m happy for them. I think it reflects extremely well on our program — I’m excited for what it says about the William and Mary football program, that our players are thought of that highly by the NFL teams.”
Tracy, a four-year starter at defensive end for the College, was the only Tribe player invited to participate at the NFL Combine workouts in February. The senior impressed scouts and team officials at the Combine and at the Tribe’s annual Pro Day in March, leading to his selection by the Giants.
Lissemore, on the other hand, did not have any contact with the Cowboys before he was drafted. He visited with other teams and had even begun to entertain free agent offers when Dallas owner and general manager Jerry Jones called to inform him of the pick.
“I’m really kind of in the dark with this whole thing,” Lissemore said. “I haven’t really met anyone; I don’t really know what to expect. I just had to go give a quick conference call with all of these Dallas reporters asking me questions about their defense, and I had no idea.”
As Lissemore learned of his selection, Archer, who ranked second in the CAA averaging 198.4 passing yards, was in the process of signing a free agent contract with the Minnesota Vikings. The quarterback visited the team earlier this month. Archer, who spent this spring as a designated hitter for the College’s baseball team, was away at Hofstra University when he received the news.
“We were up at Hofstra on Saturday, and we had a doubleheader, so we were at the field the whole day until about 6 o’clock, and that’s about when the draft ended,” Archer said. “I was trying to keep myself into the game, but a bunch of people kept texting me … It was kind of funny the way things worked out that day.”
After visiting the team’s headquarters in April, Archer considered the Vikings his top choice. Although the Carolina Panthers and Kansas City Chiefs both offered Archer contracts, he went with Minnesota.
“The Vikings’ quarterback’s coach [Kevin Rogers] texted me as the seventh round began and said, ‘If we don’t pick you sometime in the next round, and nobody else does, we want you to really consider coming up here to Minnesota. We would like to have you, and we think you would make a good fit up here,’” Archer said. “Going into the draft, they were sort of the top team on my list.”
Caldwell signed a free agent contract with the Indianapolis Colts. The safety flew under the radar for the majority of the draft process, but garnered significant attention from several teams after a strong performance at the College’s Pro Day in March.
“I think [Pro Day] really helped David,” Laycock said. “For scouts to see him in person and for him to perform like he did, I know that a number of teams after the Pro Day said that they were going back to look at some more film and at his numbers and what he put up.”
The College’s four newest prospects join several Tribe alumni in the NFL, including Miami Dolphins safety Darren Sharper ’97 and Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Derek Cox ’09, who was drafted last season. Sharper is highly regarded as one of the best safeties in the league, and his strong play helped New Orleans capture its first Super Bowl title in February. Cox shined in his rookie season, picking off Colts quarterback Peyton Manning in his first NFL start.
Lissemore said he believes that Cox’s and Sharper’s strong play serves as a testament to the strength of the College’s football program.
“I think it speaks volumes, not only for the school itself, but for the conference we play in as well,” Lissemore said. “I was being asked earlier about the transition to higher competition, and I thought to myself, ‘Well, the CAA isn’t really low competition.’ It just speaks volumes about the types of student athletes we have and the types of coaches we have.”
Above all, Tribe players and coaches credit the team’s successful draft day Saurday to the team’s run to the FCS National Semifinals in December.
“I know that some of the scouts I was talking to would say that, ‘We saw you playing on ESPN,’ or ‘We saw you playing in the semifinal game,’ and I’m sure that the scouts are going to find you one way or another if you are talented,” Archer said. “But for us, coming from a small school and not being on TV every weekend, that exposure definitely helped all of us.”