Pro-Panthers: FIU football alumni begin to create names for themselves

FIU Football HelmetPhoto by PantherNOW

By Brett Shweky/Sports Director


A number of former FIU football players are starting to establish themselves as some of the top players to ever come out of the program.

Players such as wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and safety Johnathan Cyprien are prime examples of how former Panthers have been able to become some of the best players at their positions.

Hilton, a third-round draft choice in 2012 by the Indianapolis Colts, is a three-time Pro Bowler and is having a fast start to the 2017 season.

Sophomore international business Major Julian Melo, who is an active fantasy football competitor, discussed how the former Panther has become one of the best players on his fantasy football roster.

“He straight up carried my team. If it wasn’t for him, I probably would have lost in my league last week,” said the international Business major. “T.Y. got me like 30 something [fantasy] points last week. He had a monster game against the Browns.”

Throughout the first three games of the season, Hilton has racked up 14 receptions for 259 receiving yards and one touchdown. He is currently averaging 18.5 yards-per-reception and leads the entire Colts roster in receiving targets.

Safety Johnathan Cyprien played for the Panthers from 2009 to 2012, and holds the record for highest drafted player in program history. The former FIU safety was selected 33rd overall in the 2013 draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars and quickly showed the NFL landscape his full potential.

During each of his first four seasons in the NFL, Cyprien managed to secure over 100 combined tackles. By the end of the four-year span, the North Miami native totaled 454 combined tackles and showed the league his efficiency in stopping the run.

Junior mechanical engineering major Juan Rodriguez, a dedicated Jacksonville Jaguars’ fan, explained that Cyprien, throughout his career with the team, has always played at a high-level and also helped their defense in crucial situations.

“I remember seeing him play as a rookie and just thinking to myself, if he can play this well now, imagine how good he can be four or five years down the road,” said the mechanical engineering major. “Last season, he had by far his best year. He finished last year with like 120 tackles, which was huge for the team.”

Recently in the NFL offseason, Cyprien found a new organization to call home and signed a four-year, $25 million contract with the Tennessee Titans. The Titans, whose defense finished in the bottom-three against the passing game last season, hopes the addition of Cyprien will reinforce their struggling pass defense.

Tight end Jonnu Smith, who is a teammate of Cyprien on the Tennessee Titans, also has begun to make a name for himself.

In only three games, the 2017 third-round draft choice has managed to find the end zone twice. This can be seen during the Sept. 24 game against the Seattle Seahawks, when Smith hauled in a 24-yard pass from Titans’ quarterback Marcus Mariota and maneuvered his way into the end zone.

Current FIU quarterback, senior Alex McGough, explained earlier in the season that the former FIU tight end will be greatly missed and that it will be difficult to replace a player with his skill set.

“You can’t replace a guy like that [Smith]. A player of that caliber is very hard to replace,” said McGough. “I only say that because he was just a freak of nature. That guy was just outstanding.”

Undrafted offensive linemen, Dieugot Joseph, has also been involved in recent pro-football news.

The former Panther from last season was recently signed as an undrafted free-agent to the Baltimore Ravens’ 53-man roster, following a multitude of injuries to their offensive line.

Joseph, now on his second team, originally signed as an undrafted free agent with the Chicago Bears in May. The Orlando native participated with the team throughout the entire preseason was cut, but soon after signed onto the practice squad in September.

Even Greg Ellingson, a former FIU wide receiver that plays for the Ottawa Redblacks in the Canadian Football League, has established himself as a playmaker in international football.

Ellingson, who played for the Panthers until 2010, bounced around from team-to-team in both the NFL and CFL until he finally found the right fit for himself in Ottawa.

The 6-foot-4 receiver finished off the season with 78 receptions for 1,186 receiving yard along with seven touchdowns, hitting the 1,000 yard receiving mark for the second-straight year while in Ottawa.

On Feb. 10, 2017, the Tampa native signed a two-year contract extension with the Redblacks that will retain him with the team through the 2018 season.

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