Five Chants to Further Football Career
CONWAY - In addition to De'Angelo Henderson being selected in the sixth round of the NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos, five additional Chanticleers -- Sam Ekwonike (New York Giants), Voghens Larrieux (Buffalo Bills), Richie Sampson (Minnesota Vikings), Alex Scearce (Chicago Bears) and Chase Tidwell (Seattle Seahawks) -- will report to NFL rookie camps in the coming days as free agents.
The quintet will look to follow in the footsteps of fellow Chanticleers Quinton Teal, Maurice Simpkins, Mike Tolbert, Denzel Rice and Jamie Childers that made NFL rosters or practice squads as undrafted free agents.
Ekwonike is one of four Chanticleers to play all 53 games over the last four years and he is one of three to start each of the last 38 games (all of 2013, 2014 and 2015), playing right guard. And, as a starter, he had 83 knockdown blocks, including 23 as a senior. In Ekwonike's three years as a starter, CCU had its top two passing yards games, its top game for total offense while producing three of the school's five-best seasons for rushing yards per attempt, the school record for passing yards and three of the school's top six seasons for total offense. This past season, Ekwonike anchored an offensive line that helped CCU produce some of its best offensive totals for rushing and total offense for a season despite the Chants going through seven quarterbacks and five running backs due to injuries throughout the year. In fact, Coastal rushed for over 200 years in 11 of 12 games --including three games with over 300 yards.
Larrieux, a 2016 All-American, played both left and right tackle both this past season and throughout his career. He and Ekwonike were the only Chants to start each of the last 38 CCU games (all of 2013, 2014 and 2015. As a starter, Larrieux was only flagged five times and allowed just 5.5 sacks. Thanks to Larrieux's blocking, running back De'Angelo Henderson was a two-time All-American and quarterback Alex Ross was a two-time national offensive player of the year finalist as well as an All-American. In addition, Larrieux helped Henderson set an NCAA Division I record as he scored a touchdown in 35 consecutive games.
Sampson was one of Coastal's most productive defensive players despite missing 14 games over his career. He finished his career ranked third on CCU's all-time list for interception return yards (139), fourth in unassisted tackles (153), fifth in passes defended (28), seventh in fumbles forced (3) and 13th in total tackles (208). He was third on the team in tackles this past season and was named the team's defensive MVP twice.
Scearce earned first team All-American in 2016 and finished sixth in the FCS Buck Buchanan FCS National Defensive Player of the Year. His five interceptions tied for first among all Division I linebackers (both FCS and FBS). Scearce may have been the most productive player in all of Division I football as Coastal scored seven defensive touchdowns in 2016 -- second-best total in all Division I behind Alabama's 10 -- and Scearce was directly responsible for five as he returned two picks for TDs, recovered a fumble for TD and forced two fumbles that were recovered for TDs.
Tidwell only played 20 collegiate games, starting 12 as a junior and eight as a senior. He was named the team's co-Offensive Player of the Game for the 2016 season opener at Lamar and was only whistled for one penalty as a senior. As a junior -- his first year of playing organized football on any level -- he was the team's top-graded offensive lineman five times. He played the second-most plays among the linemen and committed just one penalty.