Former Hilltoppers gearing up for NFL chance

Former WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty (6) practices at the Miami Dolphins training camp Monday, Aug. 1. Doughty was drafted by the Dolphins in the seventh round of the NFL draft. Photo courtesy of the Miami Dolphins

Sam Porter

When a college football program makes the strides that WKU has made over the past few years, there are many side benefits that come with that.

One of those benefits is several alumni playing in the NFL. A decade ago, the Hilltoppers did not even have five alumni playing in the NFL.

Just last spring, the Toppers sent five players to the NFL through the NFL Draft and free agency.

That being said, let’s take a look at five notable Toppers that are looking to make strides at the pro level as the NFL regular season inches closer.

1. George Fant (Seattle Seahawks)

Fant might be the biggest surprise on this list. After playing four years of college basketball at WKU, Fant used his final year of athletic eligibility to play one season of football in a Topper uniform.

Despite seeing very little action on the football field during the 2015-16 season, the former basketball star opened a lot of eyes at WKU’s pro day at 6’5, 296 pounds with a 37-inch vertical and 4.83 40-yard dash.

After going undrafted as expected, the Seattle Seahawks signed Fant to an undrafted free agent contract.

In the Seahawks’ first preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings, Fant was in the game at left tackle for 44 plays according to If Fant continues to improve, he will have the chance to make the Seahawks’ roster as a second or third string offensive lineman.

2. Brandon Doughty (Miami Dolphins)

Doughty was possibly the most debated when it came to his NFL status out of college. After a record setting career at WKU, many pro scouts had their doubts about Doughty questioning his size and his athleticism.

The Miami Dolphins selected Doughty in the seventh round and is expected to sit behind Ryan Tannehill and veteran Matt Moore as the third-string quarterback.

In his first preseason game against the New York Giants, Doughty completed seven out of nine passes for 66 total passing yards.

In his second preseason outing, Doughty struggled, completing only three passes for seven yards and was sacked twice in a 41-14 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

However, after Moore suffered a head injury in the same game, expect Doughty to get reps as the second string quarterback for the rest of the preseason.

3. Bobby Rainey (New York Giants)

It wasn’t long ago that Bobby Rainey was the starting running back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, Rainey has found another NFL home as a member of the New York Giants.

In two preseason games, Rainey has rushed the ball six times for 87 yards including a 67-yard run against the Buffalo Bills.

Rainey has a lot to prove if he wants to work his way into a starting role in New York as he currently sits behind Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams and Shane Vereen on the depth chart.

4. Jonathan Dowling (Buffalo Bills)

After a successful career at WKU, the Oakland Raiders selected Jonathan Dowling in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Dowling saw action in seven games in a Raider uniform but made very little impact.

After just one season the Raiders cut the former Topper star. However, Dowling found a new home as a Buffalo Bill, where he will continue to try to prove that he can play at the NFL level.

So far this preseason, Dowling has recorded four tackles and an interception through two games.

5. Tyler Higbee (Los Angeles Rams)

Higbee was no doubt the most NFL-ready player coming off this Topper squad as he was the highest selected Topper in this year’s NFL draft.

His 6’5’, 244-pound frame combined with his athleticism makes him a good fit at the tight end position in the NFL.

After the Rams cut their previous tight end, Jared Cook, a year ago, Higbee will look to prove himself early in his career to be a target for rookie quarterback Jared Goff.

So far, Higbee has recorded five catches for 49 yards in the preseason and will be expected to receive valuable playing time in the regular season.

Reporter Sam Porter can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @SammyP14.