|Four Vandals sign rookie deals|
MOSCOW, Idaho - After standout careers on the football field at the University of Idaho, four Vandal football players officially extended their playing days after signing rookie free agent contracts on Thursday, and reported to their respective camps on Friday.
Linebacker JoJo Dickson inked a deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars, running back Deonte Jackson signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, defensive end Aaron Lavarias signed with the New England Patriots and receiver Eric Greenwood signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"I'm excited for those kids, because you're talking about dreams come true and those are things that they've worked their whole lives for," Idaho head coach Robb Akey said. "They're still going to be Vandals, and now they get to see if they can keep going at the next level."
Additionally, Vandal draftees Nathan Enderle and Daniel Hardy signed their rookie contracts with the Bears and Buccanneers, respectively.
Dickson, a two-year starter and 2010 captain for Idaho, finished his career in 2010 with 182 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions and three sacks. He was a 2009 second-team all-Western Athletic Conference honoree.
Jackson was a four-year starter in the Idaho backfield. He finished his career with six all-time top-10 entries, including sixth all-time at Idaho in career rushing yards (2,700) and seventh in career all-purpose yards (3,276).
"I just know they're looking for a change of pace guy and I can be that for them," Jackson said of the Bucs. "I've spent the entire summer going back and forth between training with my uncle, Steven Jackson, in St. Louis, and back in Vegas with my speed coach from USA Track and Field."
Greenwood was Idaho's leading receiver in 2010 with 46 catches for 741 yards and six touchdowns. He caught the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime on Senior Day against San Jose State and was recognized as a second-team all-WAC selection in 2010. He finished his career with 89 receptions for 1,246 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Lavarias is a defensive end who started every game for Idaho the last two seasons and was voted the team's Defensive Player of the Year both years. He led the team with 10 sacks and 17 tackles for loss in 2010 and also returned an interception for a touchdown at Hawai`i. He was a 2010 second-team all-WAC pick and finished his career with 152 tackles - 30 for loss, 14 sacks and three fumble recoveries.
Enderle was a four-year starting quarterback who was selected in the fifth round, 160th overall, by the Chicago Bears. Hardy, a walk-on-turned-starter at tight end, was drafted 238th overall in the seventh round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Also drafted from Idaho in 2011 was safety Shiloh Keo, who went to the Houston Texans in the fifth round, 144th overall.
The seven new Vandals in the National Football League now brings Idaho's total to 12 active players. Wide receiver Max Komar is entering his second season with the Arizona Cardinals, guard Mike Iupati is in his second year with the San Francisco 49ers, tight end Eddie Williams is in his third NFL season and his first with the Bears, linebacker David Vobora is starting his fourth season with the St. Louis Rams and guard Jake Scott is an seven-year NFL vet with a Super Bowl ring who is in his fourth season with the Tennessee Titans.
"That's a bunch of Vandals representing us in the league right now, and hopefully we get them all to stick this year," Akey said. "I think it says a lot about the direction we're headed, but I think most importantly, it says a lot about those young men."