NFL teams pick up undrafted Longhorns

Hank South

This summer’s NFL Lockout created an interesting situation that disallowed contact between players and teams for nearly four months. While there were stipulations that allowed for a normal draft, it didn’t help the undrafted free agents in any sense. For a group of former Longhorns, all that could be done was to stay in shape, and hope for a phone call when the lockout was over. For most of them, that call finally came.

John Chiles
Chiles had an interesting career as a Longhorn to say the least. After pre-college hype comparing him to a hybrid Vince Young, Chiles didn’t disappoint but didn’t necessarily impress either. His brief stint at backup didn’t evoke a new Young, and he was switched to slot receiver, where he finished his career. Chiles filled a niche with his speed and versatility, and the coaches couldn’t leave him off the field. Chiles’ free-agent contract with New Orleans is a good match, as Saints quarterback Drew Brees has always been good at spreading the ball around to various targets.

James Kirkendoll
A native of Central Texas, Kirkendoll was a quick, dependable receiver, who will forever be remembered in Longhorn lore for his catch in the final minutes of Texas’ 2009 Fiesta Bowl win. The Tennessee Titans signed Kirkendoll to a contract and, while he’s certainly undersized 5-foot-10, his work ethic could land him a roster spot.

Kyle Hix and Michael Huey
Neither of the offensive linemen was ever dominant at Texas, but both players offer something general managers look for: size. But even with their big frames (Hix is 6-foot-7, 325 lbs. and Huey, an offensive guard, is 6-foot-4 and around 300 lbs.), neither was drafted, maybe in part because of a lack of a run game in the Longhorn offense last year. They’ll both have to fight for a roster spot; Hix with the Patriots and Huey with the Seahawks.

John Gold
Fans never had many complaints about the former walk-on, a guy who punted and punted well. But kickers and punters have a more difficult time making professional rosters in a league in which teams sometimes keep only one kicker on the payroll to save cap space. Case in point: Hunter Lawrence, arguably the greatest kicker in Texas history, didn’t even get a spot on the Buccaneers after being signed to a free-agent contract in the offseason. While Gold has a slim chance of making the Seahawks roster, he’ll have his shot.

Greg Smith
Smith is one of the more overlooked tight ends in school history. From his early role as a blocking tight end, Smith showed promise and versatility, clearing out defensive ends for Jamaal Charles and deep snapping on the side. Like Hix and Huey, Smith’s final year wasn’t one to boast about. The 2010 Longhorn offense was just plain stagnant, and Smith never had a chance to do much — just nine receptions for 60 total yards. Smith will never be confused with elite pass-catching tight ends, but he does have a unique opportunity to make the Carolina Panthers roster as a savvy blocking specialist.

Some undrafted players who have yet to sign: Eddie Jones, Dustin Earnest and Britt Mitchell.