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Packers' rookie free agents include a basketball player

Moss played football in his last season at South Dakota State

Apr. 30, 2012
 

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South Dakota State's Dale Moss, right, guards Minnesota's Lawrence Westbrook during the first half at Williams Arena in Minneapolis on Dec. 23, 2009. Moss is a rookie free agent with the Green Bay Packers. (Jeff Wheeler/Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCT)

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When Dale Moss made his college choice, he called the football coaches at South Dakota State University.

“He said, ‘I’ve got good news, I’m going to be a Jackrabbit,’” receivers coach Josh Davis recalled Sunday, “‘but I’m going to be a basketball player.’ It broke our heart.”

But the football coaches would get their turn with Moss.

After he completed his basketball career, capping it off with a senior season in which he averaged 7.6 points and 4.5 rebounds, he gave football another shot. With one year of football eligibility remaining, Moss showed up at spring practice after four years away from the game.

“We’re a small enough school where you see these guys every week, and we kept telling him that the last year (of eligibility) is ours,” South Dakota State football coach John Stiegelmeier said.

“The football coaches would always joke around with us because they knew he was probably a better football player than he was a basketball player,” South Dakota State basketball coach Scott Nagy said.

Only a year later, the 6-foot-3, 213-pound Moss has made it to the NFL. He signed a free-agent contract with the Green Bay Packers shortly after the draft ended on Saturday night and will report for rookie orientation camp next week.

“It was something I always wanted to do,” Moss said. “When I got the opportunity, I went out and knew it would be a lot of work, but it was something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and it worked out for the most part.”

Not surprisingly, it took Moss some time to shake off the rust. In spring practice last year, Davis worked with him on the basics of route running and, well, just running.

“He was very gangly and had a wide frame of motion as far as route running, so we just worked on (keeping his) elbows tight to hips, just basic running form,” Davis said. “After spring ball, we knew Dale could do some things for us but as far as being an every-down player, we weren’t sure.”

Davis gave Moss a list of things to work on over the summer.

“He came to fall camp a different player,” Davis said.

By the third game of the season, Moss moved into the starting lineup. He caught 61 passes for 949 yards and six touchdowns in nine games. That helped earn him an invitation to the East-West Shrine Game. He also took part in a combined pro day with players from South Dakota and Augustana College in Vermillion, S.D., where he ran a 4.51 40-yard dash on March 22.

Though Moss had only limited contact with the Packers before the draft, they were one of the first teams to call late Saturday afternoon as the draft was winding down.

“I had a flood of teams contacting my agent,” Moss said. “I just felt like Green Bay was going to be my best situation.”

The Packers didn’t draft any receivers, but that position is loaded. In fact, two of last year’s practice squad receivers, Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel, turned down chances to sign with other teams in order to remain with the Packers. Both are contenders to make the roster this season.

Moss is trying to follow the path of guys like Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez and Jimmy Graham. All have flourished in the NFL after playing as much or more college basketball than football.

Though Moss wasn’t a high scorer in basketball, he regularly made explosive plays.

“He might only score eight points, but half of them were on put-back dunks,” Davis said. “When you have that skill, you’re pretty effective catching jump balls for us. He was athletic from the start. He didn’t need a whole lot of separation. He can go up and get a ball with one hand as well as anybody I’ve seen.”

More of the rookie free agents

Here’s a look at the other undrafted rookies that Packers have agreed to terms with, according to the players, their schools, agents or media reports. All are subject to passing the team’s physical before the May 11-13 rookie orientation camp. There’s also expected to be as many, if not more, players in for tryouts.

Don Barclay (6-4, 305), T, West Virginia: Two-year starter at left tackle was a first-team all-Big East selection by the league coaches last season. Also has some experience playing guard. Did 23 reps on the bench press at his pro day on March 23.

Duane Bennett (5-9, 213), RB, Minnesota: Fifth-year senior started all 12 games last season and led the team with 639 yards on 166 carries and three touchdowns. Missed most of the 2008 season with a knee injury. Ran a 4.62 40 and did an impressive 28 reps on the bench at his pro day on March 5.

Jaymes Brooks (6-2, 310), G/C, Virginia Tech: Started three seasons at right guard but also worked at center for pro scouts. Born in Germany but went to high school in Virginia. Did 24 reps on the bench at his pro day on March 15.

Nicholas Cooper (6-0, 240) RB, Winston-Salem State: Left school with one semester of eligibility remaining. Could have sat out this spring and played next fall but elected to go pro after rushing for 1,808 yards and 22 touchdowns last season for the Division II school. Also had 22 catches and two receiving touchdowns. According to the Winston-Salem Journal, the Packers have told Cooper they plan to play him at fullback. Ran a 4.73 40 and did 19 reps on the bench at the Wake Forest pro day on March 19.

Tommie Draheim (6-4, 295), T, San Diego State: Selected all-Mountain West Conference first team as a senior. Played some center earlier in his career. Did 22 reps on the bench at his pro day on March 21.

Cameron Ford (6-3, 252), TE, Wake Forest: Started a career-high 10 games as a fifth-year senior, when he caught the only three touchdowns of his career. Totaled just 12 receptions for 99 yards last season. Did 26 reps on the bench at his pro day on March 19.

Eric Lair (6-2, 238), TE, Minnesota: Part-time starter last season, when he had just 11 catches for 168 yards and one touchdown. Started 11 of 12 games as a junior and had 39 catches for 526 yards and two touchdowns. Might project as a fullback in the NFL. Ran a 4.6 40 and did 23 reps on the bench at his pro day on March 5.

Jaymar Latchison (6-3, 265), OLB, New Mexico: Played defensive end in college but probably will switch to outside linebacker. Started 34 games over his final three seasons. Had 21 career tackles for loss and 10 career sacks. Ran a 4.92 40 and did 21 reps on the bench at his pro day on March 8.

Dezman Moses (6-3, 248), OLB, Tulane: Played defensive end in college. Began his college career at Iowa but transferred to Tulane, where he played two years and had 15 sacks. Ran a 4.9 40 and did 21 reps on the bench at his pro day on March 21.

Darius Reynolds (6-3, 190), WR, Iowa State: Didn’t get invited to the combine or Senior Bowl but was the leading receiver at the Players All-Star Classic on Feb. 7 in Arkansas. Played quarterback at a junior college for two years. Missed time at Iowa State with a broken leg and ankle injuries. Led the team with 43 catches for 695 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Ran a 4.54 40 at his pro day on March 20.

Sean Richardson (6-2 1/2, 216), S, Vanderbilt: Three-year starter and teammate of cornerback Casey Hayward, picked by the Packers in the second round. Started all 13 games as a senior and finished second on the team in tackles. Tested well at the combine where he ran a 4.52 40, did 22 reps on the bench, vertical jumped 38 ½ inches and broad jumped 10-8.

Marc Tyler (5-10 5/8, 219), RB, USC: Work ethic and character issues followed him most of his career. Rushed for 913 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior but only 568 yards and four touchdowns as a senior. Tested poorly at the combine (4.74 40) but ran slightly better (4.64) in a March 8 workout. His father is Wendell Tyler, who played running back for the Rams and 49ers in the 1970s and 1980s.

Drew Vanderlin (6-3, 280), DE, Michigan Tech: A 2006 Green Bay Southwest High School graduate, spent six years in college after redshirting first year and taking a medical redshirt as a junior for a knee injury. Recorded 20 career sacks and 36 career tackles for loss. Worked out for the Packers earlier this month.

rdemovsk@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @RobDemovsky.

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