The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Pittsburg State Sports

August 13, 2013

Pro presence: MIAA making its mark in the NFL

When Brandon Williams’ name was called as the No. 94 overall pick by the Baltimore Ravens in April’s NFL Draft, it was a dream come true for the defensive tackle from Kirkwood, Mo.

The third-round selection also was a big moment for the Missouri Southern Lions.

“It’s great for recruiting,” Missouri Southern football coach Daryl Daye said. “It’s great for the exposure of your school. You’re talking about some of the those networks, 7 to 11 million people are watching when Brandon Williams’ name and Missouri Southern’s name came out. That’s great exposure. Because as it continues, more and more people will know about Missouri Southern and see what a great deal we have here.”

Williams was the first of 11 NCAA Division II players selected in the 2013 NFL Draft, as well as the first of three MIAA players. Missouri Western defensive end David Bass and Northeastern State offensive tackle Michael Bowie were each drafted in the seventh round by the Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks, respectively.

The Missouri Southern product headlines a group of players from  current MIAA member schools who are scattered throughout current NFL training camps. All but two of the 14 MIAA schools had a player in an NFL camp at some point this offseason.

Many MIAA coaches said it is an indication of the strength of the conference and that is likely to be an increasing trend.

“When you look at last year’s draft and then the players who were taken in free agency out of this conference, it shows you the quality and talent here,” Pittsburg State coach Tim Beck said. “The skill level has gotten better and better every year. It makes it exciting for the fans and the coaches because of the quality of the play in the conference.

“The neat thing about the players taken (in the draft) is that they’re not always just transfers. A lot of these guys are being drafted and signed as free agents who came to this league out of high school. It shows that we’re recruiting some really quality players out of high school.”

Williams is the highest NFL sraft pick to come out of Missouri Southern. He is one of only a few MIAA players to be picked as early as the third round, joining the likes of Northwest Missouri State offensive lineman Seth Wand (No. 75 overall, 2003) and Pittsburg State defensive back Darryl Wren (No. 82 overall, 1991).

He has received praise by members of the Ravens coaching staff throughout camp.

“He’s a very strong, tough guy,” Baltimore defensive coordinator Dean Pees told The Baltimore Sun. “Up front, I talk about suddenness. I know it’s quickness, but there is a difference between getting off a block suddenly. And he’s a guy who has a suddenness about him, if that’s a word. He’s got some power. I’m very pleased with him.”

Williams garnered four solo tackles in Baltimore’s 44-16 preseason win against Tampa Bay last Thursday. He is listed as the No. 2 defensive tackle on the Ravens’ depth chart.

Allen Barbre, an offensive tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles, also represents Missouri Southern in the NFL. A fourth-round pick by the Green Bay Packers in 2007, Barbre is getting a new opportunity with the Eagles after signing as a free agent in the offseason. Injuries helped propel Barbre into a starting role during Philadelphia’s first preseason game last week.

Williams and Barbre, along with past NFL stars Rod Smith and James Thrash, show potential recruits that players can make it to the big stage out of Missouri Southern.

“You’re talking about two guys (Williams and Barbre) right there on your team that your kids visually see in the NFL,” Daye said. “That’s great for them, because everyone’s goal is to play in the NFL, no doubt. But we also have to keep in perspective that you’re here to get your education, and you use the carrot of potentially going to the NFL and the carrot of playing college football as the carrot to get your education.”

Successful players from the MIAA can be found throughout the NFL.

Pittsburg State’s Brian Moorman was a two-time Pro Bowl punter after joining the Buffalo Bills in 2001 and was named to the NFL All-Decade Team for the 2000s. Moorman, who signed with Pittsburgh in the offseason, is battling Drew Butler for the right to be the Steelers’ punter.

Washburn’s Cary Wlliams started at cornerback for the Baltimore Ravens during last year’s Super Bowl win against the San Francisco 49ers, which had Washburn’s Michael Wilhoite and Central Missouri State’s Delanie Walker on the roster.

Williams, a defensive back who is now with the Philadelphia Eagles, intercepted New England quarterback Tom Brady in last year’s AFC Championship to help send the Ravens to the Super Bowl.

Wilhoite excelled for the 49ers on special teams and is working his way up the team’s depth chart at linebacker this offseason.

Walker was an integral part of San Francisco’s title run and is listed as the No. 1 tight end on the Tennessee Titans’ depth chart this offseason.

The success could lead to more MIAA players getting NFL opportunities.

“I think each year there are players from this conference who are that good,” Washburn coach Craig Schurig said. “And maybe with some of the success some of these guys have had, they’ll continue to get better looks. Since I’ve been in this league there have been so many guys who I look at and think ‘they should be on somebody’s team.’ But they didn’t get a look. Maybe with some of this recent success, teams will scout the MIAA a little more thoroughly.”

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