Former Dogs Take a Bite Out of the NFL

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    By Andy Conli / Fresno State Athletics

    4147445.jpeg      Three former Bulldogs, Ajirotutu (89), Mathews (24) and Volek (7), play for the San Diego Chargers

    This Sunday as you flip through the channels of your NFL Sunday Ticket package, you will more than likely stumble across a player or two or eighteen who played at Fresno State during their collegiate career. Currently there are 18 former Bulldog athletes who are on 11 different NFL rosters, line-up on offense, defense or specials teams and range from rookie to 14-year veteran.  Here is a look into what they have been up to this past year in the NFL.

    Even though this year's former Bulldog rookie class is highlighted by running back Ryan Mathews, first-round pick by the San Diego Chargers, others have emerged like wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu, a teammate of Mathew's on the Chargers, and punter Robert Malone of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Mathews, the No. 12 pick of the 2010 draft, is off to a solid start for the Chargers in their backfield. Mathews has racked up 382 yards on 87 rushing attempts and 92 yards on 15 receptions.  He has also punched in two rushing touchdowns. Mathews has played in all but one game which he missed due to a right ankle injury he suffered Week 2 against Jacksonville.     

    Ajirotutu, a native of El Dorado Hills, Calif., is coming off the best game of his young career two weeks ago in Houston.  Seyi made headlines by catching four passes for 111 yards and two scores to help the Chargers edge out the Texans 29-23. Ajirotutu, who averaged 16.9 yards per reception during his career at Fresno State, is averaging 20.6 yards per reception for San Diego with a long of 55 yards.

    Malone, a four-year player for the Bulldogs, was picked up by Tampa Bay right before Week 6 and started every game since. He is averaging 42.2 yards per punt with a long of 55 yards and averaged 44.3 yards per punt this last week against Carolina in a 31-16 win. Malone will travel back to his home state this week as the Buccaneers face the 49ers Sunday in San Francisco.

    A former Bulldog who is on pace to have a career season is 5th year defensive back Richard Marshall of the Carolina Panthers. Marshall, a second-round pick by Carolina, already has racked up 49 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, and two interceptions. He has recorded 12 tackles and a 66-yard interception return in his previous two games.

    Tight end Bear Pascoe of the New York Giants made the switch to fullback mid-way through this season when starter Madison Hedgecock was sidelined with a strained hamstring. His blocking has helped put the Giants in the top five for rushing at this point in the season.

    Teammates Logan MankinsJames Sanders and center Ryan Wendell are part of the reason why the New Patriots are 7-2 and tied for the best record in the NFL.

    Mankins, the No. 32 pick in the 2005 draft by the Patriots, has only played in his guard position the last two weeks. His blocking this past Sunday opened up holes for the running backs and protected quarterback Tom Brady to propel New England to a 39-26 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.  

    Sanders, a strong safety drafted in the fourth-round by the Patriots also in 2005, contributed to the win against the Steelers with a 32-yard interception return for a touchdown.  He notched nine tackles in his last two games and has accumulated 30 tackles on the season.

    Other sets of teammates include nose tackle Bryan Robinson. tight end Stephen Spach and cornerback A.J. Jefferson of the Arizona Cardinals and cornerback Tyrone Culver and wide receiver Marlon Moore of the Miami Dolphins. Quarterback Billy Volek, a former Clovis West standout, is teammates with Mathews and Ajirotutu on the Chargers.  

    Robinson and Volek are the only former Bulldogs currently in the NFL who have been playing for over 10 years but there have been others who have been playing on Sundays for a while. Former No.1 pick David Carr, a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, has been in the league nine years, outside linebacker Sam Williams has been in for eight, all with the Oakland Raiders, and wide receiver Bernard Berrian of the Minnesota Vikings and running back Derrick Ward of the Houston Texans have been pro for seven years. 

    Below is a list of the former Bulldogs currently in the NFL:

    •    Seyi Ajirotutu - WR, San Diego Chargers, Rookie
    •    Bernard Berrian - WR, Minnesota Vikings, 7th year
    •    David Carr - QB, San Francisco 49ers, 9th year
    •    Tyrone Culver - CB, Miami Dolphins, 5th year
    •    A.J. Jefferson - CB, Arizona Cardinals, Rookie
    •    Robert Malone - P, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Rookie
    •    Logan Mankins - G, New England Patriots, 6th year
    •    Richard Marshall - CB, Carolina Panthers, 5th year
    •    Ryan Mathews - RB, San Diego Chargers, Rookie
    •    Marlon Moore - WR, Miami Dolphins, Rookie
    •    Bear Pascoe - TE, New York Giants, 2nd year
    •    Bryan Robinson - NT, Arizona Cardinals, 14th year
    •    James Sanders - SS, New England Patriots, 6th year
    •    Stephen Spach - TE, Arizona Cardinals, 5th year
    •    Billy Volek - QB, San Diego Chargers, 11th year
    •    Derrick Ward - RB, Houston Texans, 7th year
    •    Ryan Wendell - C, New England Patriots, 2nd year
    •    Sam Williams - OLB, Oakland Raiders, 8th year  

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