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WMU's Franklin headlines state players to sign as undrafted free agents

Associated Press • May 1, 2018 at 1:00 AM

Saturday was an exciting day for Jarvion Franklin.

The Western Michigan running back participated in graduation ceremonies during the day in Kalamazoo, and at night, he became a professional football player, signing an undrafted free-agent contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The deal reunites him with former WMU teammate Chukwuma Okorafor, an offensive tackle who was taken by Pittsburgh in the third round of the NFL Draft.

Franklin is among at least 16 state players, so far, who have signed either as UFAs or accepted rookie mini-camp tryouts.

Franklin, 6-foot and 220 pounds, finished as Western Michigan's all-time rushing leader, with 4,867 yards — fifth all-time in the history of the Mid-American Conference. He had 56 career touchdowns, including 52 rushing — the latter another Western Michigan record.

Franklin's career at Western Michigan began with a bang, as he was MAC rookie of the year and MAC offensive player of the year in the same season, in 2014. His career had fine bookends, as he was first-team All-MAC as a freshman and a senior, and in between helped lead the Broncos to a New Year's Six bowl appearance, the Cotton Bowl, at the end of his junior season.

Here are the rest of the state signings and rookie mini-camp tryout commitments. Be sure to stay tuned to detroitnews.com for the latest additions.

More Western Michigan

■Asantay Brown, LB, Philadelphia Eagles — The Muskegon native received a three-year contract after leading Western Michigan with 98 tackles this season. He was a safety for two years in Kalamazoo before moving to linebacker.

■Donnie Ernsberger, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers — The Battle Creek native was second on the team this past season with 34 receptions, for 394 yards and four touchdowns. He started 12 games and was in on a team-high 931 plays.

Eastern Michigan

■Sergio Bailey, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers — He was the Eagles' top receiver in 2017, with 54 receptions for 878 yards and nine touchdowns. He caught at least one pass in all 25 games he played for Eastern Michigan.

■Brogan Roback, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers — With good size and a cannon of an arm, he was considered an NFL Draft sleeper, but settled for a minicamp tryout. He set numerous records at EMU, including 57 career TD passes.

Central Michigan

■Amari Coleman, DB, Detroit Lions — The Flint native had three interceptions this past season, including one returned for a touchdown. He also can be a weapon on special teams, most notably punt returns.

■Joe Ostman, DE, Philadelphia Eagles — The St. Ignace native was a menace in the backfield, posting a team-best 20.5 tackles for loss in 2017, including 14 sacks. He posted 69 tackles total, and forced four fumbles.

■Corey Willis, WR, Arizona Cardinals — The Holland native played in just 10 games this past season, but still was third on the team in receptions, with 45, for 669 yards. He also had a team-best nine receiving touchdowns.

■ OL Joe Austin (Bridgeport, Mich.; Atlanta Falcons) and OL J.P. Quinn (Indianapolis Colts) accepted rookie-camp tryouts.

Michigan

■Khalid Hill, FB, Seattle Seahawks — The Detroit native played in 43 games at Michigan, at fullback and tight end, with 11 starts. He had 29 receptions for 288 yards and three touchdowns, and rushed 42 times for 73 yards and 13 TDs.

■Mike McCray, LB, Miami Dolphins — The three-year letter winner and former captain played in 38 games with 26 starts, recording two interceptions, two sacks and a fumble recovery. He had a career-best 11 tackles vs. Air Force.

Michigan State

■Chris Frey, LB, Carolina Panthers — The four-year letter winner finished his career with 25 consecutive starts, and was a captain and Holiday Bowl defensive MVP in 2017. For his career, he had seven sacks and five fumble recoveries.

Ferris State

■Tavierre Thomas, DB, Arizona Cardinals — The Detroit native led the Bulldogs with four interceptions and 18 pass breakups in 2017, and also was tops on the team with 48 solo tackles, including two for a loss.

Grand Valley State

■Nick Keizer, TE, Baltimore Ravens — The Portage native caught 29 passes for 504 yards this past season, finishing with nine TDs, second on the team.

■Garrett Pougnet, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers — The Flint native had 5.5 sacks, an interception and two fumble recoveries in 2017, and received a tryout.

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