5 former Ball State athletes earn NFL opportunities

<p>KeVonn Mabon, Ball State football's all-time receptions leader signed with the Tennessee Titans following the 2017 NFL Draft. He was one of five Ball State athletes who received an NFL opportunity.</p>

KeVonn Mabon, Ball State football's all-time receptions leader signed with the Tennessee Titans following the 2017 NFL Draft. He was one of five Ball State athletes who received an NFL opportunity.

Following the 2017 NFL draft Saturday, five Ball State athletes earned opportunities to pursue professional football.

Four of them played on the Ball State football team during their collegiate careers, while the other made his presence known on the basketball court.

Three players were signed as undrafted free agents: standout wide receiver KeVonn Mabon signed with the Tennessee Titans, safety Martez Hester signed with the Indianapolis Colts and former power forward Franko House signed with the Chicago Bears. 

The other two, linebacker Aaron Taylor and offensive lineman Drake Miller picked up minicamp offers. Taylor received invites from the Green Bay Packers and Tennessee Titans while Miller's invite came from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

KeVonn Mabon

Mabon's career with the Cardinals was one for the record books.

He leaves Ball State with the most receptions (244), third most receiving yards (2,862) and tenth all-time with touchdown passes caught (12) in Ball State football history.

Mabon was with former DeSmet Jesuit high school coach and mentor Pat Mahoney watching the last rounds of the NFL Draft at Mahoney's home in Tarpon Springs, Florida.

After the 253rd name was called, Mabon didn't make the cut, so there was a brief moment of disappointment.

But that feeling didn't last long.

"At first I was kind of upset, because I would've preferred to be a draft pick," Mabon said. "But I got a phone call minutes after the draft so I wasn't that upset for too long."

He received calls from the Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs and the Baltimore Ravens. Each organization whose receiving staffs Mabon had been studying with his agent during the draft.

After the phone calls, Mabon discussed the different possibilities with his agent. Together they looked at specifics like the amount of practice squad positions available and years left on current roster players contract.

"We were prepared for the situation when it happened," Mabon said. "It was just a matter of seeing who called us going with the team that was the best."

And in five minutes, he made his choice - to sign with the Tennessee Titans.

For Mabon, who is back in Indiana now, two weeks is what separates him from the beginning of his NFL career. During that time, he plans on taking care of the small things like packing his backs and taking last-minute care of his body.

"It's an exciting time right now," Mabon said. "Now it's just making sure my body is ready for camp and making sure that my body is in the best shape it can be going into camp."

Martez Hester

Hester missed the first call from his agent following the draft.

Not because he wasn't prepared for it, but because of the amount of friends and family gathered in his Maryland home made it hard for him to hear his cell phone.

"It was just a little bit too loud in my house and I wasn't directly by my phone at first," Hester said. "But I called him [my agent] right back and he gave me the news.

"The feeling was just great, it was just like a small weight lifted off your back."

Hester will be joining an organization no more than an hour away from Ball State, and one that he's familiar with.

When the Indianapolis Colts held their training camp practices in Anderson, Hester made trips there with several of his Ball State teammates.

"It's a good feeling," Hester said. "It's a really good feeling to be around a team that you already know, one that you're comfortable with ... It's a really good place to be and I'm just really happy to be there."

The next steps for Hester include the upcoming rookie minicamps, which will be his first "professional football activity."

From there, the 6-foot-3, 201 pound safety will spend his time preparing for OTA's (organized team activities) and preseason camp.

Hester will join the Colts after playing 39 games for the Cardinals racking up 234 tackles and three interceptions in his collegiate career.

Franko House

Out of the 2017 undrafted free agents list, House was the only collegiate basketball player to sign with an NFL team.

While House didn't play a snap of collegiate football, he isn't new to the sport. The 6-foot-6, 248-pound power forward was a two-way starter at Concord High School and even had offers to play collegiate football.

House, who recently transitioned back onto the football field, spent his senior year raising his child Carter. He will be attempting to join the NFL as a tight end, a position he played in high school. 

This story will be updated.


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