This week’s new talent includes a member of the 2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame class, an MLB All-Star and a very popular member of the New York Mets.
Williams only played one year at Southern University, but he clearly impressed NFL scouts enough to be drafted in the third round of the 1991 NFL Draft. He immediately made an impact, too, playing in all 16 games for the Cardinals and recording six interceptions. Aeneas quickly established himself as Arizona’s top cornerback, leading the league in interceptions with nine in 1994. Throughout his career, Williams was selected to the Pro Bowl eight times, was a four time First-team All-Pro, and was the Bart Starr Man of the Year in 1999. After 14 seasons in the NFL and finishing with 55 interceptions, Aeneas retired. Later this summer, he will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a well-deserved honor for one of the best shutdown corners in NFL history.
Gonzalez made his MLB pitching debut in 2008 with the Oakland Athletics, easing his way into the Big Leagues pitching in 10 games and 34 total innings. After a four-year stint with the A’s, Gio had his best season with the Washington Nationals in 2012, winning 21 games and posting an incredible 2.89 ERA. He even struck out 207 batters, good for fourth in the National League. His fantastic numbers earned him a trip in the pitching rotation at the 2012 All Star Game, where he pitched a complete inning, giving up no hits and striking out one hitter. In 2012, Gonzales created the Giving Individuals Opportunities foundation, helping medical patients who are in need of financial support.
Murphy has been with the Mets since his rookie season in 2008, originally playing in the outfield, and gradually transitioning to his current position at second base. Though not known for his power, Murphy led the Mets in home runs in 2009 with 12, proving he was ready for Major League pitching. In six seasons, he has compiled 749 hits, 45 home runs, 302 RBI’s, and hit for an average of .291. In 2013, Murphy proved to be one of the best offensive second basemen in the MLB, finishing second in the NL in hits with 188, and hitting for a .286 average. He even led the National League in stolen base success rate, stealing 23/26 bases. He is currently having a great season with the Mets, already with 94 hits and 30 RBI’s.
Brandon made his Major League debut for the Cleveland Indians in 2002, but only played in over 100 games once in four years there. In 2006, Phillips found his form with the Cincinnati Reds, the team he still competes for today. Since joining the Reds, he has recorded 1,396 hits, 165 home runs, 156 stolen bases, and hit for a .277 average. He has even won four Gold Glove Awards, the Silver Slugger Award in 2011, and has been on the last three All-Star teams for the National League. In 2012, Phillips guaranteed he would be a Red for a little while longer, signing a lucrative contract extension through 2017.
A three-year starter at Baylor University, Dixon anchored the Bears defense at the safety position. In his sophomore year, Ahmad started in all 13 games, one of only nine players to do so, earning All-Big 12 honors and recording 89 total tackles along the way. After another excellent season in his junior year, Dixon was on another level during his senior year, earning a spot on the AP second-team All-America team. He was one of six Baylor players that earned a trip to the NFL Scouting Combine. He is considered one of the biggest steals in the draft, being selected in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys.
This Florida Gator product played in 32 games in college, with 26 starts on the defensive line. When he was on the field, he wreaked havoc for opposing quarterbacks. In the 2012 Sugar Bowl against Louisville, Easley recorded five tackles, 3.5 of which were for a loss. Prior to his senior season, he was a consensus First Team All-SEC Selection, as well as on watch lists for the Lombardi, Bronko, and Outland Trophies. However, the team captain’s final season was taken away after suffering a tear in his ACL. Though his injury dropped his draft stock down, the Patriots saw his pure talent, and selected him with the #29 overall pick in the first round. If he can stay healthy, he will be a force on the Patriots defense for years to come.
Ware played his college football at the University of Georgia, where he rushed for 1,486 yards and eight touchdowns in three years. He was signed by the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent in 2007. After one year, he was picked up by the New York Giants, where he played for four seasons and won two Super Bowls. Ware last played with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012, and is currently a free agent.
Ramsey was a strong defensive lineman for Boston College, recording 90 tackles (15 for loss) and six sacks in 41 games. Known for his quickness off the line and pure strength, Kaleb bench-pressed 225 pounds 36 times at the Scouting Combine, the highest number among defensive linemen. He was selected in the seventh round (243rd overall) by the San Francisco 49ers, and should compete for a spot on the 49er defense if he can stay healthy.
Smallwood was a consistent force at linebacker for the Connecticut Huskies. After redshirting his freshman year, Yawin started all 12 games at middle linebacker, finishing second on the team with 94 tackles. He only got better during his junior and senior seasons, leading the team both years with 120 and 118 tackles respectively. After his senior year, he was named to the All-American Athletic Conference First Team and was a Butkus Award Semifinalist. After a fantastic career, Smallwood was selected in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons, where he will look to make an immediate impact on a team that ranked 27th in total defense a season ago.
Powell was a five-star prospect and the #1 overall prospect at defensive end prior to coming to Florida. In his freshman season, he appeared in all 13 games and was named to the Freshman All-SEC team. In his sophomore season, he started 12 games for the Gators, recording a team-leading six sacks and 32 tackles. Powell finished his injury-rattled career with 11 sacks and 84 tackles (19 for loss). At the NFL Scouting Combine, he ran the fastest 40-yard dash out of all outside linebackers with a time of 4.65 seconds. He will continue his career in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints, the team that took him the 196th overall pick in the 5th round.
Jaylen appeared in 48 games, starting in 28 of them, during his career at Florida. In 2011, he recorded 34 tackles and five pass breakups. In 2012, he won the College Football Performance Award in the fourth week of the season, after recording his first career interception and returning it for a touchdown against Kentucky. His final season was his best, playing both cornerback and safety, finishing with 52 tackles and seven pass breakups. After a steady career with the Gators, the Philadelphia Eagles selected Jaylen in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
This former Florida Gator entered college as a quarterback and came out a stud tight end. After a successful three-year career in Gainesville, Reed finished with 78 receptions for 938 yards and six touchdowns. Leaving with one year of eligibility remaining, Reed was taken in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins. In his first season in the NFL, Jordan caught 45 passes for 500 yards and three touchdowns in just nine games. Reed was named to the Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie Team even after playing in a little over half the season.
Martavis was one of Clemson’s best deep threats at wide receiver, averaging an astonishing 22.2 yards per reception, best in school history. In 2013, he played opposite Sammy Watkins and caught 42 passes for 828 yards and seven touchdowns. In the Orange Bowl, he had four receptions, two for touchdowns. He was chosen as an Honorable Mention All-ACC selection by both the media and coaches after the 2013 season. Bryant finished his three-season career with 61 receptions for 1,354 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was drafted in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers, the tallest Steeler receiver drafted since 2008 standing at 6’ 5”.
Eric “Sleepy” Floyd
Sleepy was a gifted athlete and a star of the Georgetown Hoyas basketball team from 1978-1982. In his freshman year, he scored a record 480 points, scoring in double figures 26 times. He had an even better sophomore season, becoming the first Hoya to score 1,000 points in less than two seasons. He finished his career at Georgetown with 2,204 points, averaging 17.7 per game. He was taken in the first round of the 1982 NBA Draft by the New Jersey Nets, where he played one season. He then signed with the Warriors, where he really made his stride. In the 1987 Western Conference Semifinals, Sleepy put on one of the best performances in playoff history. Facing a sweep at the hands of the Lakers, Floyd took over, setting NBA playoff records for points and field goals in a quarter (29 and 12 respectively), and points in a half with 39. Though he will forever be remembered for that one game, he had a wonderful career with the Warriors, averaging 17.7 points per game with Golden State. He eventually retired after 14 seasons in the NBA and is currently back home in Charlotte where he actively works in community service projects.
Hernán Cristante was an Argentine goalkeeper that was part of Argentina’s Selección Nacional on three separate occasions (’89, ’92, 95). He played professionally in Argentina in 1990 and was later transferred to Club Toluca in Mexico in 1993. After bouncing from team to team, he returned to Toluca in 1998, where he played for 12 seasons. In 2007, he played his 500th professional game, and currently holds the record for most games played in the Primera División. He holds the record for longest time elapsed without giving up a goal (772 minutes). In 2004, he opened a sports training center where he currently helps develop young soccer talent in Mexico.
Byrd first made it to the Major’s in 2003, and immediately made his presence felt as a member of the Phillies. He came in fourth in the Rookie of the Year vote, batting .303 with 86 runs scored. Throughout his 12-year career, Marlon has been a consistent hitter in the league, with a lifetime .280 batting average and a total of 1300 hits. He had his best season in 2010, recording 170 hits and crossing home 84 times, earning a spot in the All-Star game along the way. In 2013, he signed a two-year contract with the Phillies, returning to the place he started his career with more than a decade earlier.
This Dominican Republic product has been with the Mets organization since 2006, gradually climbing up the ranks in the Minor Leagues. He made his Major League debut in 2013, and proved he was ready for the big stage. The center fielder played in 121 games, had a Wins Above Replacement statistic of 3.7, and reached on a hit 95 times. Known especially for his defense, Lagares led all center fielders with 14 assists and 26 defensive runs saved in 2013. He is currently on track to have his best season, hitting for a .295 average.