Three former Rockets sign NFL free agent contracts

May 2, 2016 | Athletics, News
By Paul Helgren

Three former University of Toledo football players signed free agent contracts with NFL teams Saturday.

In addition, former Rocket quarterback Phillip Ely was offered a tryout at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ rookie camp.

Rocket football logoMore Rockets are expected to sign free agent deals in the next few days. The signees will join 11 former Rockets who already were on NFL rosters heading into the draft.

Center Ruben Carter signed with his hometown Miami Dolphins. Carter, a transfer from Florida State, played one season for the Rockets, starting all 12 games at center. He was part of an offensive line that allowed just five sacks all season and powered an offense that rolled up 35 points and 460 yards of offense per game.

“I’m very honored and excited to be a part of my hometown team,” said Carter, who got the call from his agent about 30 minutes after the conclusion of the NFL Draft. “They were scouting me all along and took a lot of time with me during my workout. They went over film of games from last year with me. I am excited for a chance to come in and compete.”

Wide receiver Alonzo Russell signed with the Cincinnati Bengals. He caught 202 passes in his Toledo career and is one of only three Rockets to earn All-Mid-American Conference honors four times. He ranks fifth all-time at UT in career receptions, and third in receiving yards (3,076) and TD receptions (24).

“It’s a good opportunity for me, a really good fit,” Russell said. “I am disappointed I wasn’t drafted, but everything happens for a reason. I think Cincinnati will be a good place for me to come in and work hard for spot on the roster.”

Ely will try out with his hometown team Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ mini-camp in May. Ely played two seasons with the Rockets after transferring from Alabama. As a senior, Ely threw for 2,965 yards and 23 touchdowns. He was the MVP in Toledo’s 32-17 win over Temple in the Boca Raton Bowl, completing 20 of 28 passes for 285 yards and two TDs.

Defensive back Rolan Milligan signed with the Dallas Cowboys. Milligan played one season for the Rockets after transferring from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He started in eight games and made 48 tackles at nickelback. He played perhaps his finest game in the Boca Raton Bowl, making nine tackles and breaking up two passes in Toledo’s 32-17 win over No. 24 Temple. Milligan will attempt to join former Rocket Barry Church, another undrafted free agent, on the Dallas roster.

“It would have been nice to hear my name on TV [in the draft] but this is great,” Milligan said. “The safeties coach [Greg Jackson] told me I will have a good opportunity to play on defense and special teams. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time, so it’s really a blessing.”

These four players will be reporting to their respective rookie camps this week to begin their quest to make the regular-season roster.

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