Two former Huskies survive NFL roster cuts

Roster cut day leaves former Huskies on the market


Northern Star File Photo

Then-junior wide receiver Kenny Golladay dives into the endzone for a touchdown on Saturday against Ball State. Golladay leads all Huskies in receiving, catching 34 passes for 529 yards and three touchdowns. (Northern Star File Photo)

DeKALB — NIU’s presence in the National Football League continues to dwindle after Tuesday’s wave of roster cuts left two former Huskies standing on NFL rosters.

San Francisco 49ers free safety Jimmie Ward and New York Giants wide receiver Kenny Golladay are the only two NIU alumni who still hold a roster spot. NFL teams were required to trim their rosters from 80 players to 53 players by 3 p.m. CT Tuesday before the regular season kicks off.

Former first-round pick stays in the Bay Area

Ward’s roster status is not surprising, seeing as he is the longest-tenured player on San Francisco’s roster and about to enter his fourth season as a team captain.

Ward’s NFL career began when he was selected by the 49ers with the 30th overall pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Entering his ninth year in the Bay Area, Ward has appeared in the postseason twice. One of those appearances ended with a trip to Super Bowl 54 at the end of the 2019 season, where the 49ers lost to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Ward was named to the 2022 NFL Top 100 on Aug. 14. He made his Top 100 debut after being voted No. 96 on the list. Players are voted by their peers in a poll administered by the NFL Network.

Although Ward has made the initial 53-man roster, the 49ers will be forced to play without him for the first four weeks of the season. Ward sustained a hamstring injury on Aug. 14 that will sideline him for the first month of the 2022 season once he is placed on injured reserve (IR). If Ward had been placed on IR before Tuesday, he would have been sidelined for the entire season.

Ward will be eligible to return for the 49ers’ Week 5 road matchup with the Carolina Panthers at 3:05 p.m. CT on Oct. 9.

Golladay returns for second season in Big Apple

Golladay was one of seven wide receivers remaining on the New York Giants’ roster after Tuesday’s transactions.

Golladay’s professional career began during the 2017 NFL Draft, where he was taken in the third round by the Detroit Lions. He spent the entirety of his four-year rookie contract with the Lions, establishing himself as a top target for then-quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Golladay departed Detroit in free agency last season, signing a four-year, $72 million contract with the Giants. In his lone season with the Giants to date, he caught 37 passes for 521 yards and no touchdowns. He started all 14 of the games he played in.

The Giants will host Golladay’s hometown team, the Bears, for their Week 4 matchup at noon on Oct. 2.

Scharping joins the Super Bowl runners-up

Offensive lineman Max Scharping was one of Houston’s picks for the chopping block as they sought bring their roster numbers down to the league-maximum 53 players. Scharping was the second of Houston’s back-to-back second round draft choices in the 2019 NFL Draft.

He was waived before the final year of his four-year rookie deal. Scharping was claimed off the waiver wire by the Cincinnati Bengals on Wednesday.

NIU former ballers on the outside looking in

The remaining four Huskies active in the NFL who are currently without a team are wide receivers Christian Blake and Chad Beebe, fullback Sutton Smith and offensive lineman Jordan Steckler.

Blake spent four seasons with the Atlanta Falcons after the Falcons signed him as a UDFA in 2018. He had a pair of brief stints with two teams, the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers, this past offseason before being released by Pittsburgh on Aug. 23

The Houston Texans parted ways with Beebe on Aug. 15 after signing him to their 90-man roster on June 8. Prior to his stint in Houston, Beebe was a member of the Minnesota Vikings for four years after signing on as an undrafted free agent (UDFA) in 2017.

Smith spent a majority of the offseason with the Las Vegas Raiders after signing to the team’s practice squad late last season on Nov. 15, 2021. He served as an emergency replacement for incumbent fullback Alec Ingold, who had suffered a season-ending injury. Smith was one of two fullbacks on the Raiders’ roster before being released on May 20.

Before his time in Sin City, Smith spent most of his young NFL career hopping around rosters. Smith was selected in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers, making him the most recent NIU Huskie to be selected in an NFL draft.

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Veteran DB hangs up the cleats

During the excitement of the NFL offseason, one former Huskie decided to call it quits. Carolina Panthers cornerback Rashaan Melvin was reported to have retired in a tweet by Darin Gantt of

“I’m blessed to be able to exit a game after nine years on my terms and to leave knowing I gave the game all that I had as a player,” Melvin said in an Instagram post announcing his retirement on Aug. 1.

Melvin entered the league in 2013 as a UDFA signing by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was a member of nine teams over his nine years spent as a pro.

With the roster cut deadline now in the rear view mirror, the next date to circle on the NFL calendar is the 2022 Kickoff Game between the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams. The Thursday night matchup will be scheduled for primetime at 7:20 p.m. CT on Sept. 8. The game will be broadcast on