For Brockton’s Albert Louis-Jean, having the opportunity to make an NFL team was more than just living out a dream. It was a chance for atonement.
Coming out of Brockton High, Louis-Jean was a four-star recruit ranked as the No. 9 cornerback in the nation by ESPN Scouts Inc. Initially, Louis-Jean verbally committed to the University of Miami, but switched his pledge to Boston College following the firing of then-Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon, enrolling in January 2011 after graduating early.
Getting the chance to compete in spring football at BC in 2011 allowed him to play in 10 games that fall, with two starts, but his entire 2012 season was wiped out by a foot injury. Heading into 2013, Louis-Jean was listed as a starter, but was suspended prior to Week 1 for violating team rules and missed the season-opener against Villanova. He was featured as the team’s nickel back, finishing the season with 21 tackles and two forced fumbles, but he was suspended once more for violating team rules in December and missed the Eagles’ AdvoCare V100 Bowl matchup with Arizona.
Louis-Jean surprised many last January when he declared for the NFL Draft with two years of eligibility left. The move was met with marginal appeal; he did not participate in BC’s pro day, instead doing his own private pro day in front of just two scouts on the turf at Brockton High School.
After going undrafted, Louis-Jean was invited by the Chicago Bears for a tryout during the team’s rookie minicamp in May. His stellar play earned him a three-year rookie contract, giving him an invite to Bears’ training camp. From there he shined, combining for eight tackles, one pass defended and an interception in four preseason games.
Despite being cut on Aug. 30, Louis-Jean was signed to the team’s practice squad the next day, allowing him to have the number one thing his truly wants -– an opportunity.
“I’m just blessed and thankful for the opportunity to be in position that I’m in,” said Louis-Jean. “[I’m] excited to continue working, getting better, pursing my dreams and goals.”
Several other Massachusetts natives made headlines this preseason in hopes to earn spots on NFL teams. Here’s an update on how they did:
Rob Blanchflower, TE, Steelers (St. John’s of Shrewsbury ‘10): The seventh-round draft pick saw action in all four of the Steelers’ preseason games, getting reps at both tight end and on special teams. The Leominster native had one reception for five yards and was waived prior to the final cuts on Aug. 30. The Steelers announced Sunday that Blanchflower, a UMass product, would stay on with the practice squad.
Emil Igwenagu, TE, Lions (Holy Name ‘07): After spending two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, the West Boylston native was waived on Aug. 23. Three days later, the UMass product was claimed by the Lions, waived on Aug. 30, then officially signed Monday to the team’s practice squad.
Shawn Loiseau, LB, Colts (Shrewsbury ‘08): Loiseau returned to Indianapolis as a free agent on Aug. 3 for his third stint with the team. In two preseason games, the two-year veteran complied three tackles seeing time at both linebacker and on special teams. On Aug. 22, the Colts placed the Merrimack College product on injured reserve. Before joining the Colts for training camp, Loiseau played in the Arena Football League for the Los Angeles Kiss. In five games, he registered 23 tackles, one tackle for a loss, 1 sack, two passes defend and also a safety.
Arthur Lynch, TE, Dolphins (Dartmouth ‘09): After being drafted in the fifth round by the Miami Dolphins this past May, the University of Georgia product was placed on Injured Reserve on Aug. 26 due to a back injury, and is expected to miss the entire 2014 season. Prior to being placed on IR, Lynch saw snaps with Miami’s first team in practice, after several tight ends ahead of him were plagued with injuries. Reports indicated the Dolphins they planned on using him significantly in run support due to his size and superior blocking skills.
Viondy Merisma, G, Free Agent (Waltham ‘09): Merisma was signed by the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent after playing for Division 2 American International College in Springfield. The 6-foot-4, 296-pound guard was waived by Tennessee on Aug. 13 and is currently helping out as an offensive line coach at AIC. While team sources have indicated that Merisma is still training in hopes of playing in the NFL, the former Waltham standout has enrolled back at the college to finish his degree, which he is on track to earn after this fall semester.
Nnamdi Obukwelu, DE, Colts (Boston College High ‘09): Signing with the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent, the former BC High and Harvard defensive end played in all four preseason games, tallying five tackles. The Colts officially announced Monday that the Brockton native and Harvard product was signed to the team’s practice squad.
Richard Rodgers, TE, Packers (St. John’s of Shrewsbury ‘11): The Worcester native and former ESPN Boston All-State selection had four receptions for 67 yards this preseason, having at least one reception in three of the team’s four preseason games, and is expected to be the Packers’ starting tight end. A third-round draft pick from Cal has received praised since rookie minicamp from numerous players and coaches, including quarterback Aaron Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy.
Yawin Smallwood, LB, Free Agent (Doherty ‘10): Drafted in the seventh round by the Atlanta Falcons, Smallwood finished the preseason appearing in four games, racking up four tackles – three of which came in his debut. The UConn graduate was waived Aug. 29, just missing the cut for the team’s 53-man roster. Smallwood is currently a free agent and can be signed to team’s practice squad or 53-man roster throughout the season.
Other notable NFL locals:
Mackenzy Bernardeau, G, Cowboys (Waltham ‘04): 7 years
Gosder Cherilus, OT, Colts (Somerville ‘03): 7 years
Breno Giacomini, OT, Jets (Malden ‘04): 7 years
Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Colts (Xaverian ‘93): 16 years
Steven Hauschka, K, Seahawks (Needham ‘03): 7 years
James Ihedigbo, DB, Lions (Amherst ‘03): 8 years
Anthony Sherman, FB, Chiefs (North Attleborough ‘07): 3 years
Jordan Todman, RB, Jaguars (Dartmouth ‘08): 2 years
LOCALS IN DIVISION 1 FBS:
Lubern Figaro, SS, Wisconsin (Everett ’14): In his first collegiate game, the freshman got the call to start at strong safety for the No. 14 ranked Wisconsin Badgers against No. 13 LSU. Figaro, an ESPN Boston All-State selection last fall, ended the night with a solo tackle in the Badgers’ 28-24 loss.
Armani Reeves, CB, Ohio State (Catholic Memorial ‘12): Although listed as Ohio State’s starting nickel back, the junior from Easton, Mass., also saw some time at outside linebacker in the Buckeyes’ 34-17 win over Navy. Reeves, a former ESPN Boston Mr. Football Finalist and two-time All-State selection, also recorded three solo tackles and an assist to finish the day with a total of four tackles for the No. 5 Buckeyes.
Camren Williams, LB, Ohio State (Catholic Memorial ’12): A former ESPN Boston All-State selection, the junior from West Roxbury, saw some time at defense in Ohio State’s victory over Navy this past weekend.
Rodman Noel, LB, NC State (Everett ’10): Noel had a monster day defensively, helping the Wolf Pack squeak by Georgia State 24-23. The senior starting linebacker recorded four solo tackles and two assists for a total of six tackles and registered a tackle for loss in the second quarter for two yards.
Dominique Williams, DB, Boston College (Brockton ’10): Starting at strong safety, the graduate student and former Super 26 All-State selection, helped anchor the Boston College defense to a 30-7 victory over UMass, finishing the day with three solo tackles. Williams has also been named a captain for the Eagles this season.
Manny Asprilla, CB, Boston College (Everett ’11): The senior from Everett, Mass started at cornerback for the Eagles in their victory over UMass. A former ESPN Boston All-State selection, Asprilla tallied three solo tackles and a breakup in the season opener win.
Isaac Yiadom, DB, Boston College (Doherty ’14): The true freshman saw action on special teams in Boston College’s win over UMass this past weekend. An ESPN Boston All-State selection last year, Yiadom got credited for an assisted tackle on kickoff.
Sean Sylvia, DB, Boston College (Dartmouth ’09): The former four-year starting quarterback at Dartmouth High saw time on special teams and at defensive back. Sylvia finished the day with two assisted tackles, one coming on kickoff, in the Eagles’ victory over UMass.
Bobby Vardardo, OL, Boston College (Phillips Andover ’10): A four-year starting left guard from North Reading, the graduate student battled in the trenches helping Boston College rush for 338 yards in the Eagles’ win over UMass.
Harris Williams, OL, Boston College (Proctor Academy ‘10): The Lynn native and graduate student started at right guard for the Eagles but would leave the game after suffering an ankle injury. On Monday, coach Steve Addazio announced that Harris had surgery on his fractured right ankle and will be out for an extended period of time.
Aaron Kramer, OL, Boston College (Duxbury ’10): Kramer replaced injured left guard Williams in the first quarter and helped the Eagles have a monster day on the ground and allowed no sacks as well. Coach Addazio announced Monday that Kramer will take the place of Williams as the team’s starting left guard.
Randall Jette, CB, UMass (Martha’s Vineyard ’11): The former ESPN All-State selection started at cornerback in Saturday’s loss to Boston College and finished with five solo tackles and two assist for a total of seven tackles. The redshirt-sophomore from Oak Bluffs also had an interception in the second quarter and returned it for 20 yards.
Khary Bailey-Smith, DB, UMass (Weymouth ’12): Bailey-Smith tallied five total tackles, with four of them being solo, in UMass’ loss Saturday.
Joe Colton, S, UMass (Xaverian ’11): Colton was a menace on the field for UMass Saturday, racking up 13 total tackles with four being solo and added a tackle for loss. The starting safety from Norwood also had a breakup and a 15-yard kickoff return as well.
Stanley Andre, LB, UMass (Reading ’10): The former Reading star quarterback was all over the field for the Minutemen versus the Eagles, finishing with 12 total tackles, 11 coming from assists. The Dorchester native is a three-year starter, who made the switch from defensive linemen to linebacker a year ago.
Sha-Ki Holines, DT, UMass (Commerce ’13): After having to redshirt a year ago because of transferring from UConn, Holines started for the Minutemen at defensive tackle. The Springfield native and former ESPN Boston All-State selection finished with two tackles, both assisted.
Danny Maynes, DL, UMass (Waltham ’10): As a backup defensive linemen, Maynes tallied six total tackles, three being solo and also added a tackle for loss for the Minutemen.
Brian Howard, TE, UMass (King Phillip ’10): Starting his first game for the Minutemen, Howard had one reception for seven yards.
Vondell Langston, LB, UMass (Everett ’12): The former ESPN Boston All-State selection contributed as a backup linebacker for UMass, finishing with three total tackles, two being assists.
Taariq Allen, WR, Nebraska (Rivers ‘11): In the No. 22 Cornhuskers’ 55-7 victory over Florida Atlantic, the junior from Roxbury snagged his only catch on day in the first quarter to finish with three yards receiving in the win.
Obi Melifonwu, S, UConn (Grafton ‘12): The redshirt-sophomore had two solo tackles and one assist to finish the game with three total tackles in UConn’s 35-10 loss to BYU. The former ESPN Boston All-State selection is a two-year starting safety for the Huskies.
Maurice Hurst Jr., DT, Michigan (Xaverian ’13): After redshirting last season, Hurst got his first taste of collegiate football in front of crowd of more than 113,000 at the Big House. Michigan cruised to victory over Appalachian State 52-14.