BYU football: Cougars in the NFL end of season roundup
The NFL season came to a close on Sunday. Now it’s time to check in on all the former BYU football stars playing in the pros.
BYU football hasn’t been the pro factory it once was, but there are still a number of Cougars playing ball on Sundays.
10 of them, to be exact.
While that’s nothing to shake a stick at, the Cougars only have a few players that are making an impact each and every week. But while some will be training to return from IR, four will be in the NFL playoffs.
So with the NFL’s regular season coming to a close on New Year’s Day, there’s no better time to break down how each of BYU’s alumni did this year.
Practice Squad, IR and Special Teamers
De’Ondre Wesley: Wesley played for BYU from 2013-14 after transferring from Diablo Valley College. He played in 25 games, starting in 22 of them for BYU football and signed a free agent deal with the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent. He was placed on injured reserve in September 2016.
Paul Lasike: Lasike played in Provo from 2012-14. He played rugby before switching to football and ran for 843 yards in his career. He’s bounced around from the Chicago Bears practice squad to the team’s active roster, but never with a prolonged stay. This season he he took three carries for eight yards.
John Denney: Denney was a defensive lineman for BYU football from 2001-04 and amassed five sacks in his college career. He settled in as a long snapper in the NFL and has spent each of his 12 pro seasons with the Miami Dolphins. This season he played in all 16 games.
Alani Fua: Fua played in Provo from 2010-14. The linebacker collected 71 tackles, nine sacks and seven interceptions during his BYU football career. He signed a deal with the Arizona Cardinals and made the 53-man roster last season, but was placed on IR in late September. Fua has played in three games this season and has one tackle.
Uani Unga: Unga was a Cougar from 2011-13. He was projected to be a mid to late round NFL draft selection, but injured his knee. Unga posted 143 total tackles as a senior for BYU and signed a free agent deal with the New York Giants in 2014. Last season he had 59 tackles, but was placed on IR this season.
Bronson Kaufusi: Kaufusi suited up for BYU football from 2012-15. He wrecked havoc as a defensive end, posting 26.5 sacks in his career. His skill set impressed the Baltimore Ravens, who used their third round pick on him. Unfortunately, he broke his ankle in August and never played.
Kyle Van Noy
Van Noy was one of the best players in the history of BYU football. He played for the Cougars from 2010-13, winning the 2012 Poinsettia Bowl by himself. No, seriously. He scored two touchdowns, had 1.5 sacks and blocked a kick. It was awesome.
Van Noy was drafted in the second round of the 2014 draft by the Detroit Lions, but was traded to the New England Patriots just before the deadline this season.
After floundering in Detroit, KVN has become a play maker for the Pats defense. He’s posted 52 tackles this season (he had 16 entering the year) and intercepted his first pass. KVN also called the defense when captain Dont’a Hightower was out with an injury. Pretty impressive stuff.
Bill Belichick has spoken highly of KVN, and it looks like he’s found a home in New England. The Patriots await the winner of the Pittsburgh-Miami game.
Every BYU football fan remembers the stories about Ziggy. A kid from Ghana, Ziggy didn’t even know how to put on pads. But, that never stopped him and he turned himself into a top-five pick in the NFL draft.
The No. 5 pick of the 2013 draft, Ziggy went to the Detroit Lions and made an immediate impact. He’s an animal when it comes to pass rushing, but some lower extremity and shoulder injuries held him in check this year.
Still, Ziggy has 32 sacks and nine forced fumbles in his career, including 14.5 sacks last season. When he gets healthy, there’s nothing that can stop him. The Lions are the NFC’s second Wild Card team, so Ziggy still has a chance to make an impact this year.
Pitta called Provo home from 2004, 2007-09 and was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the fourth round of the 2010 draft. The Ravens and Pitta won Super Bowl XLVII, but all has not been well for the former BYU football star.
Pitta has suffered two season-ending hip injuries in his six year career and there was speculation that he’d retire.
Instead, he put together the best year of his career. Pitta played in all 16 games, posted a career-high 729 yards and a franchise tight end record 86 receptions. All signs point to Pitta playing a significant role in the Ravens offense next season as well.
Sorensen signed a free agent deal with the Kansas City Chiefs after playing in Provo from 2008, 2011-13. He started as a practice squad guy, then carved a role on special teams. Now he’s in the Chiefs’ defensive backfield rotation.
Many KC beat writers are calling Sorensen the most underrated player on the Chiefs roster. It’s not hard to see why. He’s making a huge impact for the Chiefs this season, but doesn’t steal many (if any) headlines. The third-year safety had a coming out party against the Saints, recording six tackles, one sack and a 48-yard pick six.
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On the season he’s 68 total tackles, two forced fumbles and three interceptions. Sorensen and the Chiefs have a bye and will take on the winner of the Raiders-Texans.
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