Marcus Lucas and Andrew Wilson missed out on the thrill of hearing their names called Saturday during the 2014 NFL Draft, but both former Missouri football and Kansas City prep standouts didn’t miss the opportunity to latch on with an NFL team.
Lucas, a wide receiver who graduated from Liberty, and Wilson, a linebacker from Raymore-Peculiar High School, were among six former Tigers who signed as free agents in the immediate aftermath of pro football’s opulent annual spring spectacle.
Lucas, who had 58 catches for 692 yards and three touchdowns, wound up signing with the Panthers, where he will join former Missouri teammate and Carolina’s second-round selection, Kony Ealy.
“It’s definitely a relief, because it’s been a long, stressful three days,” Lucas said. “The whole process has been kind of overwhelming, and I’ve been anxious to see where I was going to head. It’s exciting to finally know where I’ll be going.”
Meanwhile, Wilson is Miami-bound after signing with the Dolphins.
“I don’t know if it’s hit me yet,” Wilson said. “I’m really just hanging out right now, but I’m sure Monday (when I report to the Dolphins), it will hit me. When I board that flight or start my first workout, it will hit me then.”
Surely, there has been a similar surreal sense for tight end Eric Waters, who signed with the Steelers, wide receiver L’Damian Washington, who signed with the Cowboys, running back Henry Josey, who signed with the eagles, and quarterback James Franklin, who signed with the Lions.
“It’s been a dream as long as I can remember, since I started playing football in about sixth grade I’ve wanted to play in the NFL,” Lucas said. “It’s one of those things that someone tells you to follow your dreams and don’t settle for anything short of that. That’s what happened with me and all these guys from Missouri. … It feels great that the opportunity is finally coming along.”
Even though the dream of getting drafted didn’t materialize, Wilson said he was glad to land with the Dolphins and linebackers coach Mark Duffner, with whom he’s developed a close relationship during the last month.
“My agent knew I wanted to be in Miami,” said Wilson, who is the 10th leading tackler in Missouri history with 333 total tackles. “I really like Miami the whole time. It would have been awesome to get drafted, but I’m just looking for an opportunity and I knew I’d get one with Miami. It’s exciting to finally know for sure.”
Franklin completed 198 of 319 passes, a 62.1-percent clip, for 2,429 yards with 19 touchdowns and six interceptions as a senior despite missing more than four games with a separated throwing shoulder.
He’ll compete for a backup job behind Matthew Stafford, while one of Franklin’s top targets, Washington, gets to live a boyhood dream playing in Dallas.
Washington, a native of Shreveport, La., grew up rooting for the Cowboys and had a relationship with members of Jason Garrett’s staff.
His agent, Dean Callaway, said roughly 20 teams inquired about Washington’s services after he went undrafted.
“Obviously, he would have liked to get picked, and he was definitely in that range of receivers who were actually taken,” Callaway said. “Now, my guess is that, not only is he going to stick, but he’s going to be a long-time fixture at receiver in the NFL.”
Waters also found the perfect landing spot.
He only caught eight passes for 72 yards with one touchdown last season, but he was a star at Missouri’s pro day and showed enough chops on film as a blocker to warrant an undrafted free-agent contract with the Steelers.
“Pittsburgh’s a great spot,” Waters said. “It’s really the place to be for me right now. They’ve got a guy who’s made the Pro Bowl a couple times (Heath Miller), and I think that will be so awesome to learn from him. On top of that, their style of offense suits me.”
Josey, who declared for the draft after his junior season, broke the news he was Philadelphia-bound on Twitter.
“Philly you have a new weapon,” he wrote, in part.
No doubt, Josey, who was the feel-good story during Missouri’s turnaround 12-2 season last fall after returning from a devastating knee injury that cost him the entire 2012 season, figures to be an interesting option for second-year coach Chip Kelly to play with in his up-tempo offense.
He ran a 4.43 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine and led the Tigers with 174 carries for 1,166 yards and 16 touchdowns last season.
Finally, left guard-turned-fullback Max Copeland had talked to a couple teams and was weighing his options.