Lamp, Taylor become highest draft picks in school history

Western Kentucky offensive lineman Forrest Lamp (76) hoists the Conference USA trophy after the Hilltoppers defeated LA Tech to win their second conference championship on Dec. 3, 2016 at L. T. Smith Stadium.

Sam Porter

Although only two former Hilltoppers enjoyed the luxury of hearing their name called in the NFL Draft, a total of eight former WKU players will get the chance to live their dream of playing in the NFL. 

After slipping out of the first round, former WKU offensive lineman Forrest Lamp became the highest selected player in program history when the Los Angeles Chargers selected him with the 38th overall pick.

About two hours later, the Tennessee Titans selected former WKU receiver Taywan Taylor with the 72nd overall pick, making Lamp and himself the two highest drafted players in program history.

Once the draft ended, it didn’t take long after the draft for a handful of other former Hilltoppers to hear their phone ring. Five more Hilltoppers earned invites to mini-camps where they’ll get their chance to make NFL rosters.

Former WKU offensive linemen Darrell Williams Jr.  and Max Halpin both earned invites to NFL camps. Williams Jr. was invited by the San Francisco 49ers where he’ll be reunited with former WKU cornerback,  Prince Charles Iworah. Williams helped Lamp and Halpin anchor an offensive line that produced three different 1,000 yard rushers during their time on the Hill. Now, Williams will earn the chance to help an offensive line that hasn’t produced a 1,000 yard rusher since Frank Gore in 2014.

“The (49ers) O-line coach called and said he was trying so hard to get me drafted,” Williams told the Bowling Green Daily News. “They’ve got a whole new staff this year. He liked me a lot, so he wanted me to come out there and we made it happen.”

Halpin, a former walk-on turned four-year starter, will hope to make the roster to block for former Heisman winning quarterback Jameis Winston and Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin.

Despite not starting a game in a Hilltopper uniform, former quarterback Tyler Ferguson received a camp invite from the Tennessee Titans where he’ll join Taylor. Ferguson’s path to the NFL has been different than most players. He originally attended College of Sequioas, a junior college in California. After ESPN rated him the No. 3 JUCO quarterback in the nation, he transferred across the country to Penn State. Ferguson threw just 15 passes in a Nittany Lion uniform before transferring to Louisville where he  never saw the field. Finally, Ferguson came to WKU where he served as a backup quarterback. Now, he’ll hope to make the roster backing up former No. 1 overall pick Marcus Mariota.

“Obviously, my college career was not one that many quarterbacks would want to have but I’m glad that’s  in the past and I can focus on this,” Ferguson told the Bowling Green Daily News. “I think like in anything in life, there can be a positive experience out of anything you do. I definitely learned a lot of football, thats for sure, with Bill O’brien and Bobby (Bobby) Petrino and Jeff Brohm.”

Former WKU linebacker Keith Brown received an invite from the Seattle Seahawks. Like Ferguson, Brown transferred to WKU from Louisville as a grad student. However, his time in Red and White was a lot more memorable than Ferguson’s. Brown led WKU in total tackles in 2016, recorded six sacks as well as two interceptions in his lone season. Brown will join George Fant as the two former WKU players on the Seahawks roster.

Former WKU Long Snapper Nolan Dowling received an invite to the Kansas City Chiefs’ minicamp. Unlike the other seven players, Dowling started all 53 possible games in a Hilltopper uniform,  which is a program record.

Former WKU defensive tackle Omarius Bryant received an invite from the Baltimore Ravens, a franchise known for their history of elite defense.

Former WKU wide receiver Nicholas Norris and running back Ace Wales are still waiting for their chances to join his seven teammates at getting a shot in the NFL.

From May 12-15, teams may elect to hold their three-day post-draft rookie minicamp. In the middle of July, teams are permitted to open preseason training camp for rookies where the former Hilltoppers will begin their quest of making an NFL roster.

Reporter Sam Porter can be reached at 270-799-8247and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @SammyP14.