Scharping and Smith leave behind legendary Huskie careers

James Krause

DeKALB — Former NIU offensive lineman Max Scharping and defensive end Sutton Smith were among those selected in the NFL Draft this weekend in Nashville.

Scharping was selected 55th overall by the Houston Texans Friday night, while Smith was picked 175th overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers Saturday.

Scharping described his emotions following the selection in an April 26 NIU Athletics news release.

“It was an amazing feeling getting that phone call,” Scharping said. “I can’t wait to be a Texan. It’s an unbelievable feeling, and I can’t wait to get down to Houston.”

Scharping was named a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy for his accomplishments on the field and in the classroom as well as an honorable mention All-American by College Football News.

The three-time first-team All Mid-American Conference left tackle became the highest selected offensive lineman in NIU history and the first Huskie selected by the Texans.

Scharping said over the past few months he’s been able to learn a lot about the professional game from Ryan Diem and Doug Free, former Huskies who went to the NFL.

“I’ve gotten to know [Diem and Free] over the years, and I cannot stress enough how good they’ve been to me,” Scharping said. “To even be mentioned with those guys is amazing. Hopefully, I can live up to those guys during my NFL career as well.”

Scharping, who started every game of his college career and played every snap of the 2018 season, joins a Texans team that allowed quarterback DeShaun Watson to be sacked an NFL-high 62 times.

Smith is coming off winning the Mid-American Conference MVP Award in 2018, ending his career with 30 sacks and 56 tackles for a loss. He won back-to-back Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year awards in 2017 and 2018.

Smith was named NIU’s second all-time Consensus All-American in 2017, while also being named a finalist for the Ted Hendricks Award.

While making his mark on defense, special teams also felt Smith’s impact. Smith blocked two punts in 2018 and took one back for a touchdown.

The defensive stud has a knack for finding the endzone. In 2017, Smith scored a touchdown on two fumble recoveries while forcing three fumbles himself.

Smith helped spark the Huskies second-half comeback in the 2018 MAC Championship win over Buffalo University. He tied a career high with 10 tackles, 3.5 for a loss, and grabbed two sacks on his way to winning the MAC Championship Defensive MVP.

Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler said Saturday at a news conference he likes the versatility of Smith.

“I think Smith is going to add some depth to our outside linebackers and special teams,” Butler said. “We’ll see when he gets to camp what he does best and try to utilize his abilities to that.”

Smith was among three linebackers selected by Pittsburg, including Michigan’s Devin Bush with the 11th overall pick and Akron’s Ulysees Gilbert III with the 207th overall selection.

Two other Huskies signed to teams as undrafted free agents Saturday. Defensive lineman Josh Corcoran signed to play with the Texans alongside Scharping, while defensive back Jalen Embry will join the Los Angeles Chargers.

As of Saturday night, former Huskie wide receiver DJ Brown and kicker Andrew Gantz are among those not officially signed to an NFL team.