By Jim O’Hara, Shorter University Athletics
For four years, they lined up with each on the defensive side of the ball as key players for the Shorter University Hawks. They, like so many others have had, also shared the same dream of playing the game they love at the highest level that few can achieve.
Over the next week, however, Santavious Bryant, Greg Carswelland Jordan Shaw, who not only left their own mark in Shorter’s history but also helped the program make the transition to the NCAA Division II ranks, will find out if those days of playing together and the dream-sharing has paid off.
When the 2016 NFL Draft begins on Thursday, the trio – all three have put their names of NFL scouting lists – will be paying close attention to who gets picked over the next three days and although it’s unlikely they will hear their names being called, they feel they could get calls from teams looking for players to begin their careers as non-drafted free agents.
“This is the dream I’ve always had – to have my name out there and to have an opportunity,” said Carswell, who as a 6-foot-2, 320 pound defensive tackle served as the cornerstone in the middle of the Hawks’ front wall. “It’s such a blessing.”
“I think there’s a pretty good chance I’ll get a call when the draft comes to an end,” added Bryant, who closed out his career at Shorter earning All-Gulf South Conference recognition and was named a USA College Football All-American. “It’s exciting in that this year you’re not just watching to see everybody else’s name get called. Now you are waiting to get your own call.”
“From what I understand, toward the end of the draft or right after it, you either get a call or you don’t and if you do, you get invited to a rookie mini-camp and go from there,” Shaw, a 12-time All-American became the most decorated player ever in Shorter’s history, said about the process.
All three players – they each played in various postseason all-star games in front of NFL scouts – are well aware that NFL teams, once the draft ends, quickly turn their attention to filling their ranks of first-year players, inviting them to the upcoming rookie min-camp next month as undrafted free agents, and each Hawk have been in contact with team officials.
Shaw has had conversations with the New York Jets and the New Orleans Saints, the Jets and the Arizona Cardinals have expressed interest in Bryant, and the Cleveland Browns and the Jacksonville Jaguars have talked with Carswell.
Not surprisingly, the threesome are making sure that they will be ready for whatever the future holds.
Over the past few months, each have completed the work needed to be able to obtain their degrees when Shorter holds graduation exercises next week while at the same time making sure they are physically and mentally ready to make the transition to the pro ranks, all of them working out with high-caliber trainers in Atlanta.
Shaw, who will graduate with a criminal justice degree, spent eight straight weeks working out under the tutelage of David Irons, while Bryant and Carswell have been training with John Lewis.
“I’ve always watched the first 32 picks,” Shaw said. “This year I might have to watch the later rounds. I know some of the guys I trained with will be drafted.”
Shaw found himself turning the heads of the scouts thanks to what he did on the field for the Hawks for the last two seasons.
A two-time All-Gulf South Conference First Team pick, Shaw was named the league’s 2014 Defensive Player of the Year, wound up recognition on six 2014 All-America teams and after closing the book on his career last fall was selected as an All-American on six teams, including for the second straight year to the prestigious AFCA Division II All-America squad.
The 6-2, 220-pound safety – he played in a pair of senior all-star games – ended his career as the program’s third all-time leading tackler with 245 stops; is third in career interceptions (11); holds the record for most interceptions in a season (8 in 2014); and the record for the most interceptions in a in a game when he stepped in front of three passes against Mars Hill in 2014 with one returned for a record-tying 100-yard touchdown.
The 6-1, 205-pound Bryant was the Hawks’ third-leading tackler last year coming up with 38 solo tackles and 22 assists, and led the team with five pass break-ups and seven tackles for losses while notching two sacks. Bryant also had an interception, recovered a fumble and forced a fumble, and capped his career recording 124 career solo tackles and 66 assists.
Carswell made his last season his best ever as he recorded 13 solo stops and 13 assists, had 4.5 tackles for 12 yards and had two sacks for five yards – against NCAA semifinalist West Georgia he came up with a season high five tackles, two tackles for losses and a sack, and his career statistics include 52 career solo tackles, 38 assists and 11 tackles for losses.
And like his two teammates, he will be watching and waiting for the phone to ring.
“Cleveland told me that there’s no opportunity to be drafted,” he said, “but to look for a call from them to be invited to their mini-camp.”
“All we can do now,” said Shaw, “is to wait and see what happens.”