Sunday, March 9, 2014
BY JENN MENENDEZ POrtland Press Herald
BY JENN MENENDEZ
Portland Press Herald
It's a long way from Old Town to Kansas City, but that's where Tyler Eastman is heading.
The University of Maine offensive lineman signed a free agent contract with the Kansas City Chiefs at the conclusion of the NFL draft.
His signing set off a flurry of deals for the Black Bears: On Sunday wide receiver Landis Williams signed a free agent deal with the Denver Broncos.
Teammate Jordan Stevens, a former Mt. Blue running back, was invited to a Detroit Lions minicamp with a shot at earning his own contract. And running back Jhamal Fluellen signed with Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League.
"You know it's been a good day. I think there's been a credibility associated with us now," Maine coach Jack Cosgrove said on Sunday. "It's very motivating for the younger guys to look up and see their teammates get a chance."
Eastman, at 6-foot-6, 310 pounds, was the most touted prospect to garner NFL attention this offseason.
"I was pretty nervous. I wasn't sure what to expect," said Eastman, an Old Town native. "I had talked to a couple of teams during the day. A coach with Atlanta and St. Louis during the draft. No one from Kansas City though. But they were at my pro day."
He is the first offensive lineman to come out of Maine since center Mike Flynn -- who is now retired -- did in 1997.
"We've had some really good offensive lineman but one thing Tyler has that they didn't is height," Cosgrove said. "They were 6-1 which doesn't cut it in the NFL."
Eastman, who was somewhat of a late bloomer at Maine, was the veteran of the line and named to the all-Colonial Athletic Association second team last fall.
He leaves for rookie camp later this week and will hope to eventually join former Maine defensive end Jovan Belcher ('09), who signed with the Chiefs as a free agent last year and earned his way into the lineup last fall as a linebacker. He played in 16 games, and made 48 tackles.
Williams, who amassed 779 receiving yards last fall with 71 receptions in a pass-heavy offense last fall, was a CAA first-team selection following the season.
He was hoping to be invited to a minicamp, but was elated to learn Denver was interested in signing him.
"This really changes my mindset. Either way I was going to go in real hungry looking to earn a job," said Williams, who is 5-10, 174 pounds out of Pemberton, N.J. "It makes me feel a little more comfortable and at home. I know it's a team that wanted me because they offered me a contract."
Maine has had several players sign after the draft in the last few years -- Belcher, Mike Devito and Matt Mulligan (New York Jets), Montell Owens (Jacksonville Jaguars) to name a few.
Stevens said he had been in touch with a scout from Detroit since the team's pro day in March who said they would extend an invite to camp if he didn't sign with another team. He said he plans to play his heart out.
"I'm really excited I have the opportunity to go and try to make a team," Stevens said. "A lot of guys don't even get that opportunity. He watched film on me and wants me to continue to play how I always play with a lot of effort."
Fluellen, a Lockport, N.Y. native, began his career at Syracuse as a corner, but later came to Maine. He was cleared to play after surgery from a heart condition and rushed for 1,052 yards in 2007.
He's been running the 100 meters for the Maine track team this spring and has clocked it in 11.02 seconds.
"They want me to come in and help out on special teams as a returner," said Fluellen, 5-9, 186. "If I keep working at it, I may see some time at running back. I was trying to keep my eyes open to any opportunities that would come my way. And fortunately the CFL did come my way."