RB Danny Woodhead, Chadron State
Moments after the 2008 NFL Draft reaches its conclusion, Mike Tannenbaum exited the draft room, walked downstairs and met with the media for a few minutes. With the selection process done, the Jets general manager shifted his thoughts to rookie free agents.
"For anybody listening to this live, we're the land of opportunity," said a noticeably fatigued Tannenbaum with a smile. "We've had a lot of undrafted free agents make it here, be it Wallace Wright, Stacy Tutt, Rob Turner, Mike DeVito, so there is great opportunity here."
Call it a last-minute pitch just as Jets' scouts and coaches were working the phones. The Jets signed 10 rookie free agents, splitting five aside for both offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and defensive coordinator Bob Sutton.
Here is a closer look at the offensive crop of the undrafted free agents participating in this weekend's rookie minicamp:
Late in its draft coverage, ESPN cameras shifted to Chadron State RB Danny Woodhead and network talent wondered if he would be selected before the seventh round finished.
Woodhead, though, appeared relaxed, even flashing a smile when he talked on his cellphone. Viewers didn't know it at the time but Woodhead, who rushed for more yards in his career than any other player in college football history, was speaking with Jets head coach Eric Mangini.
A back-to-back recipient of the Harlon Hill Trophy, Woodhead is a two-time NCAA Division II Player of the Year. The 5'7", 197-pounder rushed for 7,962 yards on the collegiate level and amassed 1,597 of those yards and 23 touchdowns last season. After registering four consecutive 1,500-yard seasons, Woodhead was timed at 4.34 in the 40-yard dash at Nebraska's pro day.
"I am definitely very, very, very excited,'' he said in a television interview with KETV 7, an Omaha, Neb., station. "It worked out better than I expected.''
The Jets also added to their backfield stable with the pickup of Michigan State RB Jehuu Caulcrick. At 6'0", 254 pounds, Caulcrick is a prototypical power runner. Last season, he led the Big 10 in scoring with a school-record 21 rushing touchdowns.
''I'm really excited right now,'' Caulcrick told The Post Journal of Jamestown, N.Y. ''I'm glad everything is over. I know where I'm going to be and I'm going to be able to do what I want to do, and that's play football right now.''
The path Caulcrick took to get to the NFL could best be described as heartbreaking and inspiring. Born in the western African nation of Liberia, he endured a civil war as a child, sleepless nights and countless journeys to refugee camps, the murder of his father and a separation from his mother. While all this was transpired, he did his best to avoid deadly bullets.
Fortunately, Caulcrick's mother returned to Liberia from the United States and got her children visas. They eventually settled in western New York and Caulcrick became a battering ram of a football player who went on to star for the Spartans.
''I'm still getting an opportunity to make dreams of mine come true,'' he said. ''I can't complain about that."
Bill Callahan, the Jets assistant head coach/offense, just finished four years of duty as Nebraska's head coach. For the past two seasons, C Brett Byford anchored Callahan's O-line. A Huskers team captain in 2007, Byford started all 12 games and was named All-Big 12 honorable mention for the second consecutive season.
The Green & White also signed the Ivy League's fastest man in WR Paul Raymond, who won two Heptagonal championships in the 60-meter dash and then blazed to a 4.38 time in the 40-yard dash.
The 5'10", 170-pound Raymond is one of the most decorated receivers in Brown history, ranking sixth in both career receptions (116) and receiving yards (1,800). Last season he averaged an impressive 97.8 receiving yards per game. Of his 55 receptions, four went for touchdowns.
FB Justin Valentine rounds up the undrafted offensive rookie crop. The 6'1", 230-pounder was hurt somewhat last year by a new University of Minnesota coaching staff and the subsequent implementation of the spread offense.
During his collegiate career, Valentine played in 36 games for the Gophers and made seven starts. He had only 59 carries but 10 went for touchdowns and he was also on the receiving end of three scores.
There are also a number of tryout invitees this weekend. Those hoping to impress include a trio of Hofstra products: RB Kareem Huggins, OT Shawn McMackin and WR Charles Sullivan.
Huggins (5'8", 195) has posted sub-4.4 times in the 40 and rushed for 957 yards in 2007. He was one of the Pride's captains and scored nine times.
McMackin, a River Vale, N.J., native, posted a 4.89 time in the 40 and also was a monster on the bench, lifting 225 pounds 40 times.
And Sullivan hopes to repeat the professional success of some of his notable Hofstra pass-catching predecessors. His 238 receptions and 2,869 yards both rank first in school history and he just set the school's single-season mark for receptions with 86.
Tenacious G Tad Miller battled for Boise State in the trenches. Miller (6'3", 304) started his first 50 games before suffering a knee injury against Hawaii. An All-Western Athletic Conference second-team performer, Miller also captured the Denny Erickson Award, presented to the team's most inspirational player.
And we'd be remiss if we didn't mention RB Joshua Abrams. He's a terrific special teams player who blocked three punts in Ohio U.'s 34-14 trouncing of Gardner-Webb last September.