Six Buffs Make the Leap to the NFL
Updated: 5/2/2006, 3:30 p.m.
BOULDER -Six University of Colorado football players have been snatched up by NFL teams during this weekend's draft and three others have been invited to three-day mini-camps in order to catch on with a franchise.
Tight end Joe Klopfenstein (second round; St. Louis), wide receiver Jeremy Bloom (fifth round; Philadelphia), tight end Quinn Sypniewski (fifth round; Baltimore) and V-Back Lawrence Vickers (sixth round; Cleveland) all heard their names called within the seven rounds to continue their football careers at a professional level. Two more?punter John Torp; Minnesota and linebacker Brian Iwuh; Jacksonville ?immediately signed free agent contracts with their respective teams following the draft.
Klopfenstein, as expected, was the first Buff to come off the board as the St. Louis Rams selected him with the 14th pick of the second round.
"I wanted to go to a team and compete for the starting job, and I'm glad I have a chance to do that," Klopfenstein told reporters in a teleconference call after being selected. "One of the big parts of my game is to be able to stretch the field vertically, but they said I could be used in different positions like fullback and slot receiver. I think I can be a versatile guy and keep defenses off guard with where I line up.
"I've been (to St. Louis) and I liked it a lot. I met with the coaches and saw the team. I feel like it's a good place to play and I'm excited to be there."
Wide receiver and return specialist Jeremy Bloom will fulfill his dream of playing professional football with the Philadelphia Eagles who selected him with the 14th pick in the fifth round. Bloom last played for CU in 2003, as the NCAA ruled him ineligible for his last two seasons after receiving endorsements to fund his professional skiing career. A mogul and free-style skier, Bloom competed in the Olympic Games in Turin, Italy in February.
Sypniewski, who enjoyed a breakout season with the Buffs in 2005, was selected by the Baltimore Ravens with the 34th pick of the fifth round. Ravens Director of College Scouting Eric DeCosta said that Sypniewski will help fill a hole that was left when former Raven Darnell Dinkins signed with the Cleveland Browns this offseason. Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome and DeCosta also liked the fact that Sypniewski was a great point-of-attack player and regarded him as the best blocking tight end in the draft.
Ironically, the Ravens think Sypniewski has room on his frame to grow and he could eventually be turned into an offensive tackle?just like former CU tight end and current Denver Broncos tackle Matt Lepsis.
The Cleveland Browns snagged Vickers with the 11th pick of the sixth round, receiving an immediate boost to their special teams and a challenger to starting fullback Terrelle Smith.
"I'm a salary cap saver," Vickers said after working out for NFL scouts at CU's pro timing day last month. "You get a three-for-one with me. A fullback, a short-yardage back and a third down back. Once I get on the field I'm a die-hard player, an all-around athlete and a guy that loves being out there."
Torp, widely regarded as the best punter available in the draft, did not see his name called, but immediately signed a free agent contract with the Minnesota Vikings, who were set to draft him in the seventh round before giving up the pick.
"It really was the best-case scenario for me," said Torp, mentioning that his phone was ringing off the hook during the seventh round. "Teams just decided that they didn't want to draft punters this year, so I basically got to pick from half of the teams in the league."
Vikings punter Chris Kluwe is coming off a major knee injury and is it uncertain when he will be able to return. In the meantime, Torp will receive all of the snaps during summer camps and the preseason, giving him every opportunity to win the starting job.
Iwuh was signed by Jacksonville, a team which has been monitoring him for some time.
"The coaches were really inerested in me during the whole process," Iwuh said. "They also wanted me at the linebacker position, which is what I wanted."
Several other Buffs have a good chance to catch on with NFL teams as free agents, including quarterback Joel Klatt, defensive tackle Vaka Manupuna, snapper Greg Pace and linebacker Akarika Dawn. Klatt, the holder of every major CU passing record, has been invited to attend a mini-camp this weekend with the Detroit Lions. Manupuna has scheduled a three-day tryout with the Washington Redskins starting Thursday, the same mini-camp offensive lineman Clint O'Neal has been invited to. Pace has had dicussions with the Philadelphia Eagles and the Chicago Bears, but has yet to sign with a team.
TE Joe Klopfenstein (2nd round; St. Louis)
WR Jeremy Bloom (5th round; Philadelphia)
TE Quinn Sypniewski (5th round; Baltimore)
FB Lawrence Vickers (6th round; Cleveland)
Buffs Signed (Free Agents):
LB Brian Iwuh (Jacksonville)
P John Torp (Minnesota)
Buffs Invited to Mini-Camp Tryouts:
QB Joel Klatt (Detroit)
DT Vaka Manupuna (Washington)
OL Clint O'Neal (Washington)
TE Quinn Sypniewski Quotes (Courtesy, Baltimore Ravens)
GENERAL?"I've put a lot of time and hard work into my college career, and I was really hoping that the sixth year would pay off. Waiting on Sunday and then hearing my name called by the Baltimore Ravens was a relief and a very special moment. I think that also showed how my perseverance has paid off. Now, I need to take that perseverance and develop my game at the next level."
ON BLOCKING EXPECTAIONS?"(Blocking) is something that I feel very strongly about and that I definitely take pride in. I want to come in and get on the field fast. So, if I can be that point-of-attack guy, then I will do everything I can to give the team what it needs. Coach (Brian) Billick even challenged me and said that he is going to blame me if the rushing game is not where it is supposed to be next year. I'll have a lot of pressure on me to come in and block very well. But, I am definitely ready for the challenge."
ON POSSIBILITY OF MOVING TO TACKLE?"If it's something where my body type continues to get wider over the next couple years, then that is definitely something I'd want to transition into. But, if I can stay and compete at the tight end position, which is a position I really love to play, that would be great, too. All I want is an opportunity to contribute. (Switching to offensive tackle) kind of depends on how my bodies matures over the next couple years. I am already 24 years old, so I don't know if my body will mature any more. But, if I can hold that extra 40 or 50 pounds, then (switching) is definitely something I would jump at the chance to do."