Former Redhawks set sights on draft

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Oge, Jones, Simonhoff eager to get shot at professional football.

Three Southeast Missouri State products are currently on National Football League rosters.

A trio of Redhawks who completed their eligibility in 2006 hope to join that group.

While probably only one of the three -- defensive end Edgar Jones -- has a chance to be selected in this weekend's NFL draft, all figure to have a solid opportunity to at least sign as free agents.

Jones, punter David Simonhoff and wide receiver Oge Oge have all received their share of interest from various NFL teams.

By some time Sunday, after the two-day NFL draft concludes, those three players should know a lot more about their professional prospects.

"I would hope that all three get a chance to be in somebody's [training] camp," Southeast coach Tony Samuel said. "More and more people have been calling about Edgar. He's the kind of worker, if he gets in a camp, he'll compete. He's one of the hardest workers I've been around.

"David, he's got that great leg and great hang time. Oge's got the height. He can go get the ball and he's another real worker. We didn't really have a chance to showcase him last year."

Jones, a 6-foot-5, 250-pounder, used his speed and quickness to lead the nation last season with 12 quarterback sacks. He also had 18 tackles for loss and earned Division I-AA all-American honors.

Jones, who is a candidate to be drafted in Sunday's late rounds, said he has been receiving the most interest from the 49ers, Jaguars and Chiefs.

"It's hard to tell whether I'll be drafted or not, but I think I have a good shot to be picked up [as a free agent]," Jones said. "Some teams have talked to me about playing outside linebacker. I feel like I can play end or linebacker, if they want me to.

"I'm pretty anxious for this weekend, but I'm not really nervous. It's exciting, but it's all in God's hands."

Simonhoff, a 6-2, 200-pounder, was a three-time Division I-AA all-American at Southeast. He averaged 45.2 yards per punt as a senior, which ranked second nationally.

Simonhoff is regarded among the better NFL prospects at his position, but since so few punters get drafted, he realizes a free-agent contract will likely be his chance to play professionally.

"I'm not counting on getting drafted. They only draft a few a year," Simonhoff said. "I'm pretty sure I'll get in a camp, I'm just worried about making a team."

Simonhoff said the Jaguars, Cardinals, Dolphins and Vikings have been showing him the most interest.

"But it's unpredictable. You never know what's going to happen," he said.

While Jones and Simonhoff were regarded as legitimate NFL prospects most of their senior seasons, Oge joined the mix relatively late.

The 6-4, 210-pound Oge caught just 21 passes last season -- he averaged 14.1 yards per reception -- as Southeast did not have a prolific air attack.

But Oge's size intrigued a few NFL teams, and he had some impressive workouts for them, which elevated him to prospect status, although he has virtually no chance to be drafted.

"I had some really good workouts," said Oge, who indicated that the Lions, Rams and Steelers have expressed the most interest in him. "It's really just a guessing game right now, but I'm excited about hopefully getting a chance."

The three current NFL players from Southeast -- kick returner Willie Ponder of the Rams, offensive lineman Eugene Amano of the Titans and offensive lineman Dan Connolly of the Jaguars -- have shown that there is no set way to make the league.

Ponder and Amano were both late-round draft selections -- Ponder a sixth-round pick in 2003 and Amano a seventh-round choice in 2004 -- while Connolly was an undrafted free agent in 2005.

No matter what path they must take, Jones, Simonhoff and Oge hope to ultimately follow their Southeast predecessors to football's highest level.

"That's my goal. I'm confident, but I know it's going to take a lot of work," Jones said.

Added Simonhoff: "I feel confident, but it won't be easy."

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