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Eight Penn State Football Lettermen Join NFL Teams

The 2021 NFL Draft is in the books, folks!

Three days, seven rounds, and 259 picks later, eight more former Penn State football players — including one who transferred away from the program — have now joined NFL organizations either as a draft pick or undrafted free agents.

It didn’t take long for a Nittany Lion to get in on the draft fun during round one Thursday night. The Dallas Cowboys selected star linebacker Micah Parsons with the No. 12 overall pick, making him the highest-drafted Penn Stater since Saquon Barkley went No. 2 overall in 2018. With longtime Cowboy and Penn Stater Sean Lee now retired, Parsons will aim to carry on the Linebacker U tradition down in the Lone Star State.

For the first time since 2003, Penn State had two players drafted in the first round. Defensive end Odafe Jayson Oweh heard his name called when the Baltimore Ravens selected him with the No. 31 overall pick. Oweh became the first Nittany Lion defensive lineman to get drafted in the first round since Jared Odrick in 2010, and he now joins a defense led by well-respected defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale. Additionally, he’s now reunited with Penn State legend Trace McSorley in Baltimore.

While Oweh and Pat Freiermuth may have been teammates in college, they’re now rivals at the next level. The Pittsburgh Steelers nabbed Freiermuth in the second round with the No. 55 overall pick. If you thought it couldn’t get any cooler, think again. Penn State and Steelers legend Franco Harris announced the pick.

Freiermuth, who totaled 92 catches worth 1,185 yards and 16 touchdowns during his three-year Penn State career, is poised to make an immediate impact in a talented Steelers offense.

That would do it for Penn Staters selected during the first two days, but there was no shortage of Nittany Lions drafted on day three.

Cornerback Zech McPhearson, who transferred to Texas Tech after his sophomore season in 2018, got the call from the Philadelphia Eagles when they selected him in the fourth round with the No. 123 overall pick. As a fourth-round pick, McPhearson should be able to compete for playing time early on in his NFL career.

After McPhearson got selected, no Nittany Lions came off the board until the seventh round. However, the seventh round was a wild one, to say the least.

Defensive end Shaka Toney got picked up by the Washington Football Team with the No. 246 overall pick, which was much later than many “draft experts” anticipated. Toney joins Penn Stater Troy Apke with Washington, and he’ll attempt to prove all the teams that passed on him wrong by carving out a significant role with the Football Team. Additionally, like Freiermuth and Oweh, Toney and Parsons now become rivals at the NFL level.

With the very next pick at No. 247 overall, the Arizona Cardinals took center Michal Menet. Menet was a staple up front for Penn State ever since taking over the starting job in 2018, and he earned third-team All-Big Ten honors by the conference’s coaches and media during his final season in 2020. As a late-round offensive lineman, Menet will have to fight his way onto Arizona’s roster during training camp.

You thought back-to-back picks were wild? That’s nothing, folks. Versatile offensive lineman Will Fries went No. 248 to the Indianapolis Colts, making him the third consecutive Nittany Lion drafted. Fries’ versatility could be key to him making the Colts’ 53-man roster come September since he started games at both guard and tackle spots while in Happy Valley.

While that would do it for Penn Staters getting drafted, one more player had his NFL dreams come true immediately after the draft ended.

Safety Lamont Wade signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted free agent, meaning he’ll join Freiermuth in the Steel City. Wade totaled 153 tackles and 10 passes defended during his Penn State career, and he’ll try to fight his way onto the Steelers’ roster with the uphill battle of being an undrafted free agent.

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About the Author

Gabe Angieri

Gabe is a sophomore majoring in journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He grew up in Lindenhurst, New York, and has had the absolute misfortune of rooting for the Jets, Mets, and Knicks. If you want to see his bad sports takes, follow him on Twitter @gabeangieri and direct all hate mail and death threats to [email protected]

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