Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Post - Athens, OH
The independent newspaper covering campus and community since 1911.
The Post
Ohio's Phil Bates attempts to fend off a Thundering Herd defender during their home game against Marshall University at Peden Stadium, on September 17, 2011. Ohio defeated Marshall 44-7 and claimed the bell for the first time since 2000.

Former Bobcat players vie for NFL roster spots

As a two-year captain at Ohio, former Bobcat linebacker Noah Keller could be heard calling out audibles at the line of scrimmage in a dialect only his teammates could understand. Now in the NFL, Keller’s biggest challenge is not the level of competition but the new language yet to be learned.

Keller signed a three-year deal with the St. Louis Rams just days after not being selected in last month’s NFL Draft. He completed a week of rookie mini-camp and is now on to organized team activities, better known as OTAs.

Keller said his experience thus far has been a positive one, but there is one aspect that is giving him trouble.

“I played in a 4-3 defense in college, and I’m playing in a 4-3 here. A lot of the things are very similar, but they just have different words for them,” Keller said.

“I’m trying to learn all the new terminology and all the jargon. I’ve conditioned myself for the past five years to certain words meaning certain things, and now I’ve got the same words in their system meaning completely different things.”

Another aspect Keller is becoming accustomed to is the lifestyle of a professional athlete.

Along with the many perks, he said there is a lot of hard work that goes in for even the guys who do not see much time on the field.

“You find guys that have made a living off being on special teams. They’ve made sure that they do it to the best they can and do whatever they can to make themselves better,” Keller said. “Even the guys that might not be as gifted, they’re definitely not going to get outworked.”

One of those players is Mario Haggan, a seventh-round pick in 2003 who recently signed with the Rams.

Keller said Haggan has been especially helpful to the rookie during the short time they have been together.

“He’s a 10-year vet who has made a living for himself doing whatever he needs to do to make the team,” Keller said. “He’s definitely one guy whose brain I would pick to get some tips.”

Bates signs 3-year contract with Seahawks

Five months ago, Phil Bates and Bobby Wagner were fighting over a bowl of potatoes in Boise, Idaho. On Sunday, the pair of rookies put their quarrel aside and ate breakfast together in Seattle.

Bates, a former Ohio quarterback and receiver, and Wagner, a former Utah State linebacker, competed against each other in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in December. The Bobcats defeated the Aggies to claim the school’s first-ever bowl victory, but that has not stopped an unlikely friendship from blossoming.

As the Western Athletic Conference player of the year in 2011, Wagner was a second-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks in last month’s NFL Draft.

Bates was not selected in the draft but was invited to rookie mini-camp and recently signed a three-year deal with the team.

“Me and Bobby are real good friends. We hang out a lot,” Bates said. “I talk a little bit of trash, but it’s no big deal. That’s over with.”

Seattle also took Wagner’s Utah State teammate, running back Robert Turbin, in the fourth round.

Bates played receiver during the Potato Bowl and the rest of the 2011 season, but  he said he has been working at quarterback and special teams with Seattle.

“I’ll play quarterback and then if they need to play a little wildcat, I can do that as well,” Bates said. “I’ll play special teams as well. I’m pretty versatile.”

Hershey exploring NFL options

Former Ohio punter Paul Hershey made his feelings about playing a December bowl game in Idaho well-known on Twitter, but he had no such qualms about heading to Kansas City for rookie mini-camp.

Although the Chiefs did not offer him a contract, Hershey said he cherished the opportunity.

“I had a real good time out there. The experience was beyond anything I could have imagined,” Hershey said. “The NFL is definitely a top-notch league: Top-notch equipment, facilities, everything. It was the best it could be out there. It was like you were in a different world.”

But Hershey said he is not satisfied with just one NFL experience, and his agent continues to look at other NFL teams as possible suitors.

“Right now I’m just waiting to see if I can get into a camp somewhere,” Hershey said. “That was the first step: Getting into mini-camp, getting on film and performing. Now my agent’s looking at other possibilities. Right now I’m just waiting.”

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2016-2024 The Post, Athens OH