Big Rapids, Mich. - Another Ferris State University football standout will have an opportunity to continue his career in the National Football League (NFL) as cornerback Tavierre Thomas (Detroit/Allen) signed with the Arizona Cardinals immediately following the NFL Draft on Saturday.
Thomas inked a preferred free agent deal with the Cardinals and will join the squad soon for their rookie mini-camp.
Previously on Saturday, one of his Bulldog teammates, All-America defensive end Zach Sieler (Pinckney), became FSU's first-ever NFL Draft pick when he was selected by the Baltimore Ravens with the 238th pick in the seventh round. They join four other former FSU teammates currently with NFL organizations.
A 2017 Cliff Harris National Small College Player of the Year finalist, Thomas concluded his FSU career as a two-time All-American for the Bulldogs and was a consensus All-America choice as a senior while helping lead FSU to a second consecutive national quarterfinal appearance.
As a senior last fall, Thomas ranked among the league and national leaders with 18 total pass breakups and four interceptions while garnering the GLIAC Defensive Back of the Year honor. The two-time first team All-GLIAC selection finished right behind Sieler on the squad with 60 total stops and added two tackles for loss while starting all 13 games in his final season as a Bulldog.
Ferris State finished the 2017 season with an 11-2 overall record. FSU's 11 wins this past season marked the fourth consecutive year in which the Bulldogs had achieved the feat, which represented the first time in school history in which FSU has done so over four-straight years.
This past fall, the Bulldogs also made their fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Division II Playoffs and reached the national quarterfinal round for the second-straight year after making a D2 National Semifinal appearance the previous season.
The Bulldogs currently have four other former standouts active in NFL organizations, including defensive tackle Justin Zimmer who was signed by the Atlanta Falcons as a free agent last week. Former two-time Harlon Hill Trophy winning quarterback Jason Vander Laan is a tight end with the Indianapolis Colts, linebacker Brady Sheldon is with the Oakland Raiders and wide receiver Jake Lampman is in the Tampa Bay Buccanneers' organization. Vander Laan, Sheldon and Lampman have all seen NFL regular-season action over the past two seasons. Last year, Sheldon earned a tryout invitation with the Raiders and eventually was moved to the active roster.
While no Ferris State football player had ever been drafted by an NFL team before Sieler, according to the official NFL Draft Report, several former Bulldogs have inked NFL contracts as free agents and played in the league. Including this year, the Bulldogs have now had at least one NFL free agent pickup following the draft each of the past five years.
Unofficially, at least 15 former Ferris State players have previously inked NFL free agent deals. Former defensive back Marvin Robinson inked with the Dallas Cowboys in 2014 with defensive tackle Marcus Cribbs signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2015. Those two represented the first since free agent cornerback Angelo Williams with the Minnesota Vikings in 2010. Previously, in 2013, former defensive end Jordan Morgan received a rookie tryout with the New York Giants, but did not sign. In 2016, Vander Laan, Lampman and Zimmer all signed and reached NFL camps while Sheldon did likewise in 2017.
The select group also consists of running back Dave Gagnon (1974-Chicago Bears), outside linebacker Monty Brown (1997-New York Jets), defensive tackle Ed Philion (1994-Buffalo Bills), defensive end Dave Zuiderveen (2001-Atlanta Falcons), flanker Clarence Coleman (2002-Buffalo Bills), tackle Matt McCoy (2004-Detroit Lions), wide receiver Carlton Brewster (2006-Cleveland Browns) and defensive tackle Jake Visser (2009-Houston Texans).
Two other former Ferris State players, offensive guard Bill Bourdlais and safety Patrick Wells, received tryout invitations from the Cleveland Browns in 2008 and participated in the team's rookie minicamp, but did not ink a deal. Several others have also had NFL tryouts including wide receiver Andre Johnson (1989), quarterback Dave DenBraber (1987) and receiver/returner Fred Kirkland (1981). Defensive back James Skodak (2006) also had tryouts with several NFL organizations among other past Bulldog standouts.