With the New England Patriots ousting the Baltimore Ravens from the NFL playoffs, the NFL season is officially over for all former Brigham Young Cougars. For just the seventh time in the last 32 NFL seasons, BYU will not be represented in the Super Bowl. However, several former Cougars represented the Y well.
Early on, the 2011 NFL season was a tough one for the BYU alumni. Fullback Fahu Tahi was not brought back by the Minnesota Vikings after paving the way for Adrian Peterson the last four seasons. Defensive back Aaron Francisco was declared a free agent July 25, 2011. The Indianapolis Colts, or any other team, didn’t resign him. Daniel Coats (New York Giants) and Fui Vakapuna (Cincinnati Bengals) were let go September 3, 2011, when all teams made final cuts and set their roster. The same day, the Chicago Bears placed Harvey Unga on the reserved/left team list.
Nevertheless, there was a lot for Cougar fans to be excited about. BYU had 13 former BYU players on NFL rosters at the end of the season.
John Beck, Washington Redskins.
80 completions, 132 attempts (60.6%), 858 yards, 2 TD, 4 Int., 72.1 Passer Rating
Statistically, it was the best season of Beck’s five-year career. Realistically, it failed to live up to expectations. He started the year with aspirations to be the team’s starter, but ended up second on the depth chart at the end of fall camp. Mid-season, he got his chance. While the numbers were somewhat better than his stint as a starter as a rookie, Beck went 0-3 as a starter before going back to the bench.
Austin Collie, Indianapolis Colts
54 receptions, 514 yards, 1 TD
Collie bounced back from the concussions he suffered a year ago only to find his quarterback sidelined by injury all of 2011. The loss of Peyton Manning had a clear impact on Collie’s production, as well as the entire Colts team. Most notably, Collie averaged just 9.5 yards per reception (11.2 average his first two years) and had a single touchdown. However, Collie finished strong down the stretch. He had 7 receptions for 70 yards in game 12 against the New England Patriots, and 3 receptions for 49 yards in a win against the Houston Texans in game 15. Collie had his best game in the season finale making 9 receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown.
John Denney, Miami Dolphins
Denney completed his seventh season in the NFL (all with the Miami Dolphins). He is the long snapper for the Dolphins.
Ray Feinga, Miami Dolphins
Feinga finished his second season as a pro. After playing in three games in 2010 as a back-up lineman for the Miami Dolphins, Feinga did not play in any games this year.
Max Hall, Arizona Cardinals
Hall spent the second year of his NFL career on injuried reserve after suffering a shoulder injury in the preseason. However, he had a perfect 158.3 passer rating (4-4, 66 yards, 1 TD) in the preseason game against the Oakland Raiders guiding the Cardinals to victory.
Chris Hoke, Pittsburgh Steelers
This was Hoke’s eleventh and final season of professional football. He saw action in just six games (two starts). Hoke suffered a neck injury October 16, and was eventually placed on injured reserve.
Bryan Kehl, St. Louis Rams
Kehl continued to be a contributor in his fourth season in the NFL, and second season with the St. Louis Rams. He played in 14 games and started one (31-21 win over New Orleans Saints). Kehl had a season high four tackles against the Saints as well as against the San Francisco 49ers.
Brett Keisel, Pittsburgh Steelers
48 tackles, 3 sacks, 6 passes defensed, 2 forced fumbles
Keisel had a strong tenth season in the NFL. He had his third highest tackles in a season, his second highest sacks in a season, his third highest passes defensed, and his highest number of forced fumbles. He played in 14 games and started all 14. His best game of the year was against the Cleveland Browns when he made six tackles and recorded one pass defensed. His season came to an end in the Wild Card round of the playoffs at the hands of the Tim Tebow led Denver Broncos.
David Nixon, St. Louis Rams
6 tackles, 1 forced fumble
Nixon continues to hang around the NFL after three seasons with three different teams. He played in eight games for the Rams. His best game was in the team’s 13-12 win over the Cleveland Browns (one of two wins by the Rams), when he made one tackle and forced a fumble.
Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens
40 receptions, 405 yards, 3 TD
In his second season, Pitta saw his role in the Ravens offense expand. He played in all 16 games (two starts), and made at least one reception in 13 of those games. His best game of the regular season was the final game when he made 6 receptions for 62 yards and one touchdown. He also had a touchdown catch on Thanksgiving Day as the Ravens gave the San Francisco 49ers their second loss of the season, 16-6. The Ravens advanced in the NFL playoffs to the AFC Championship game. In two playoff games, Pitta made 7 receptions for 70 yards and one touchdown.
Brady Poppinga, St. Louis Rams
51 tackles, 2 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble
After six seasons with the Green Bay Packers, Poppinga played his seventh season as a pro with the St. Louis Rams. He successfully returned from an injury that sidelined him the final 10 games of 2012. Poppinga played in 15 games (started 12). The 51 tackles is the third most he has recorded in a single season. He had a season high six tackles in week four against the Washington Redskins. Poppinga had five tackles in five games.
Vic So’oto, Green Bay Packers
7 tackles, 1 sack
First year pro So’oto went undrafted, but found a spot on the defending Super Bowl champions Green Bay Packer’s roster. He made their roster as a free agent because of a strong preseason. He made at least three tackles in each of the four preseason games, as well as 2.5 total sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and returned an interception for a touchdown. In the regular season, he saw action in seven games. He saw his first real NFL action in week 4 against the Denver Broncos. In game 9 (his third game), So’oto made his first career tackle. So’oto came on strong down the stretch with two tackles in each of the final two games of the season, plus his first career sack in the last game of the regular season—a 45-41 win over the Detroit Lions. He did not play in either of the two Packers losses this season.
Manase Tonga, Oakland Raiders
1 carry, 12 yards; 3 receptions, 18 yards
Tonga finished his second year in the NFL, both with the Oakland Raiders. He played in 11 games and started three times. His one carry came in a 24-17 week six win against the Cleveland Browns. He had two receptions for 12 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs; a game the Raiders won 16-13. The rest of the time, Tonga was doing the dirty work that fullbacks get little credit for.
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