Former Ball State Football players sign as undrafted free agents

Senior Safety Ray Wilborn hugs Ball State Director of Athletics Beth Goetz during Senior Night, Nov. 29, 2019, at Scheumann Stadium. Jacob Musselman, DN
Senior Safety Ray Wilborn hugs Ball State Director of Athletics Beth Goetz during Senior Night, Nov. 29, 2019, at Scheumann Stadium. Jacob Musselman, DN

Undrafted coming out of Ball State, Willie Snead has been the lone former Cardinal in the NFL since 2016. Throughout his career, which started in New Orleans and currently sits in Baltimore, he has amassed 242 catches for just fewer than 3,000 yards and 13 touchdowns. While not your perennial Pro Bowler, Snead has made a name for himself despite not hearing it called on draft day.

On Saturday, Danny Pinter became the first Ball State alumnus taken in the NFL Draft since 2014, and while he was the only one, a few of his former teammates found their landing spot afterwards.

Ray Wilborn

Soon after the draft concluded Saturday night, Ray Wilborn agreed to terms with the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent.

In a tweet following his signing, Ball State head coach Mike Neu described Wilborn as “one of the most unselfish players I’ve ever had a chance to coach.” In another, Neu praised Wilborn for his “unbelievable versatility.” These traits were evident in Wilborn’s willingness and ability to make the switch from outside linebacker in 2018 to safety in 2019.

Ball State junior cornerback Antonio Phillips and senior safety Ray Wilborn tackle Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke during the Cardinals' game against the Bobcats Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019, at Scheumann Stadium. Rourke had 130 rushing yards. Paige Grider, DN

Starting every game at outside linebacker as a junior, Wilborn led Ball State in tackles and tackles for loss while also hauling in two interceptions on the year. When he moved to safety as a senior, he picked up right where he left off, starting all 12 games, finishing third on the team in tackles and picking off two balls.

The 6-foot-4-inch Wilborn’s versatility could prove to be an advantage for him on a team with six other linebackers and six other safeties.

Riley Neal

Neal, a 6-foot-6-inch quarterback, signed with the Denver Broncos, a team that went 7-9 last season and used three different starting quarterbacks in the process. Right now, Neal sits behind Drew Lock, Jeff Driskel and Brett Rypien on the depth chart.

In his time at Ball State, Neal started 32 games, breaking into the program’s top three in career passing yards, completions and touchdowns.

Ball State’s Quarterback, Riley Neal, Junior, fights to keep the ball on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018 at Notre Dame Stadium. The Cardinals lost 16-24. Anna Hite,DN

Injuries prevented him from playing the majority of his junior year as well as the last three games of the following season. After graduating with one year of eligibility left, Neal decided to transfer to Vanderbilt.

Neal started 10 games for the Commodores, tossing for 1,585 yards and nine touchdowns.

James Gilbert

After parting ways with Todd Gurley, the Los Angeles Rams picked up a pair of running backs this weekend: Gilbert as an undrafted free agent and second-round pick Cam Akers. Along with Akers, Gilbert will have to compete with Darrell Henderson Jr., Malcolm Brown and John Kelly on the roster.

Like Neal, Gilbert transferred from Ball State for his final year of eligibility, as he headed to Kansas State.

Ball State junior running back James Gilbert runs into the endzone in the second quarter during the Cardinals’ game against Tennessee Tech on Sept. 16 at Scheumann Stadium. Gilbert’s touchdown with 0:09 remaining in the second quarter increased Ball State’s lead to 21-7. Paige Grider, DN File

As a Cardinal, he racked up the seventh-most rushing yards and fifth-most rushing touchdowns in school history. His 1,332 yards and 12 scores in 2016 earned him a spot on the All-Mid-American Conference First Team as well as Ball State’s John Magnabosco Award, given to the team’s most outstanding player.

As a Wildcat, he made nine starts, led the team with 737 rushing yards and earned All-Big 12 Honorable Mention honors.

Contact Zach Piatt with comments at or on Twitter @zachpiatt13.


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