Three Badgers agree to free-agent deals

Jeff Potrykus
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Wisconsin cornerback Sojourn Shelton celebrates the win against LSU by diving into the student section at Lambeau Field last season.

MADISON – The phone calls never came Saturday for cornerback Sojourn Shelton, tailbacks Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale and several other former Wisconsin players during the final four rounds of the 2017 NFL draft.

After the Green Bay Packers took linebacker Vince Biegel with the first pick of the fourth round, the No. 108 pick overall, no UW player was selected in the final 145 picks.

That left UW with three players selected as Biegel joined first-round picks T.J. Watt (No. 30, Pittsburgh) and Ryan Ramczyk (32, New Orleans).

A total of four UW players were selected in the last two drafts, two in 2015 and 2016.

Afterward, however, three UW players agree to free-agent deals.

Shelton, who started 51 games over four seasons, agreed to a free-agent deal with the Arizona Cardinals.

He tweeted: “Genetics gave me 5’9’ but I always been in the underdog role!!!! Y’all know I can play. AZ in a couple weeks! LES WORK!”

Clement, who bounced back from a forgettable junior season to rush for 1,375 yards in 2016, is headed to the Philadelphia Eagles as a free agent.

Ogunbowale, who joined the UW program as a walk-on defensive back and eventually developed into an indispensable performer on offense, agreed to a free-agent deal with the Houston Texans.

NFL scouts expressed reservations about Shelton’s size (5 foot 9, 177 pounds) but were impressed by his play on the field.

He led UW in passes broken up last season (12) and finished tied for second in interceptions (four).

Shelton was assigned to cover Corey Davis of Western Michigan in the Cotton Bowl. He beat Shelton for a 22-yard gain on the Broncos’ first series but finished with only six catches for 73 yards. Most of his catches came when he was matched up against a safety.

Davis, 6-3 and 209 pounds, was the fifth pick overall on Thursday.

Clement battled a sports hernia in 2015 and was limited to one start and four games that season. He finished with 221 yards and four touchdowns but came back stronger as a senior to average 105.8 yards per game and rush for 15 touchdowns.

Nevertheless, scouts were worried about his speed (4.67 seconds in the 40-yard dash) and injury history.

Ogunbowale, a graduate of Marquette University High School, switched to tailback from cornerback early in the 2014 season.

He became UW’s No 1 back in 2015 with Clement hobbled and rushed for 819 yards and seven touchdowns.

Though he was slowed by a knee injury last season, Ogunbowale averaged 5.6 yards per carry, rushed for 484 yards to complement Clement and added 22 catches for 180 yards.

Two other players with state ties agreed to free-agent deals.

Michigan State wide receiver R.J. Shelton, a graduate of Beaver Dam High School, is headed to the Minnesota Vikings.

Although the Spartans finished 1-8 in the Big Ten and 3-9 overall last season, Shelton performed admirably and was team MVP.

He led the team in catches (53), receiving yards (789) and tied for the team lead in touchdown catches (five). He also rushed 18 times for 121 yards and averaged 21.3 yards on kickoff returns.

Northern Illinois offensive lineman Levon Myers, a graduate of Franklin High School, has signed with the Dallas Cowboys.

Myers, 6-4 1/2 and 310, started at left tackle for two seasons with the Huskies. He committed to Northern Illinois in October of his senior year at Franklin and maintained that commitment despite getting a late offer from UW.

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