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Former Falcons may have future in NFL

While Omar Jacobs is anxious to find out where he will land as the NFL Draft nears, a few members of his supporting cast over the past few years hope they land anywhere at all.

Running back P.J. Pope and wide receivers Charles Sharon and Steve Sanders are all guys being looked at in this year’s senior class of athletes. Although none of them may be selected come draft day, all of them will be competitive when it comes time for teams to fill out their rosters with unsigned free agents.

In four years playing football at BGSU, Sharon has left a crater-sized impact on the record books. He leaves BGSU as the all-time leader in receptions (232), receiving yards (3,450), receiving touchdowns (34), seasons with 1,000 or more receiving yards (two) and all-purpose yards (4,519). Despite the gaudy resume, Sharon has failed to catch the attention of many scouts in NFL workouts and combines.

“[Sharon] is a guy who is a better athlete then he tested out as,” said former NFL scout and founder of GMJr.com, Russ Lande. “He’s a smooth, smooth guy with very good hands who makes great catches.”

Whether those skills translate into being drafted during April’s draft is uncertain, but they will most definitely prove useful in the free-agent market.

“He’s also a pretty polished kid for a MAC receiver and a very good route runner,” Lande said. “He’s getting as much as he can out of his ability and he could be able to fit in as a team’s fourth or fifth receiver somewhere.”

Another wide receiver graduating from BG this year in hopes of finding a home in the NFL is Steve Sanders. Under the shadow of Sharon, Sanders quietly finished seventh all-time in program history in receptions with 156 and receiving yards at 2,324. His 24 touchdown receptions is fourth all-time. But after less than impressive workouts, teams have looked past stats to a player that lacks the speed needed to play at the highest level.

“He’s more a free agent than a drafting guy,” Lande said. “He’s didn’t show me as much quickness-wise as Sharon.”

At the running back position, BG will be losing one of the best they’ve ever had in P.J. Pope. Pope is the only player in BGSU history to rush for more than 3,000 yards in a career and accumulate more than 1,000 yards receiving as well. He also finished as the school’s third all-time leading rusher with 3,116 yards.

Pope and other players from this year’s class of seniors will be fighting for the right to play in the NFL through team try-outs, then battling for a spot on the roster through a series of cuts.

“[Pope] is another guy who’s probably going to be a free-agent,” Lande said. “I think teams like his competitiveness and the way he runs strong with the ball, so he can challenge for the last running back spot on a roster.”

Every year around this time, schools from smaller conference have graduating seniors at these positions. In the more acclaimed conferences there wouldn’t be any doubts about a team’s all-time leading receiver or third all-time rusher, but that’s what Mid-American Conference players are up against every year.

“I think what you find is that unless a player is dominant, like a Ben Roethlisberger, they will slide down a round or two in the draft,” Lande said. “A guy like Sharon, he’s not a dominant receiver, but if you put him in a position at a bigger school he’d be a draft pick.”

So until the draft date comes, these players can do little more than keep their fingers crossed and their bags packed in hopes that their collegiate accomplishments don’t go unnoticed and unrewarded by the NFL.

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