Sept. 9, 2010
Fourteen former University of Arizona players will suit up for National Football League teams in opening-day action this weekend including three rookie entrants.
The new guys are New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who left UA after his junior year; his brother, Chris, a fullback for the Dallas Cowboys who signed as a free agent; and Houston Texans defensive tackle Earl Mitchell.
Pro-Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs again will prowl the inside as a linebacker for the Chicago Bears, joined on the Bears' offense by tight end Brandon Manumaleuna. Running back Mike Bell opens with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Placekicker Nick Folk will start the season with the New York Jets, Antoine Cason returns as a San Diego Charger, and the Jacksonville Jaguars will feature offensive tackle Eben Britton and wide receiver Mike Thomas in their second seasons.
Former UA linebacker Spencer Larsen returns to the Denver Broncos, where he's expected to play considerably as a fullback in his third year, and safety Michael Johnson enters his fourth year in the league, this season with the New York Giants. Safety Nate Ness will open as a Seattle Seahawk after a rookie year in Miami.
Former UA basketball player Fendi Onobun, who played football as a graduate at the University of Houston last year, was a draft pick and stuck with the St. Louis Rams as a tight end.
A number of other ex-Cats were in training camps and could surface on teams this year including receivers Dennis Northcutt, Bobby Wade and Syndric Steptoe, defensive ends Marcus Smith and Copeland Bryan, running back Chris Jennings and linebacker Vuna Tuihalamaka.