Kyle Shotwell, it seemed, had played his last down with Chris Gocong when the two were Cal Poly football teammates in 2005.
But the NFL has a funny way of reuniting people.
At around 1 p.m. Tuesday, Shotwell received a call from his agent, Ryan Tollner, who told the rookie linebacker what he had wanted to hear since being waived by the Oakland Raiders on Sept. 1. Another NFL club had a contract lined up for Shotwell to sign.
It turned out that team was the Philadelphia Eagles, for whom Gocong is now starting at strongside linebacker.
“I called him right after I found out,” Shotwell said Tuesday night in a phone interview from Santa Barbara Airport. “He was completely ecstatic for me. He was ecstatic that we could reunite. Chris is one of my best buddies. He’s from Santa Barbara, I’m from Santa Barbara. Now I’m looking forward to going out there with him. I’m sure he’ll make the transition smooth to the East Coast.”
Shotwell was set to depart Santa Barbara at 7:20 p.m. Tuesday for San Francisco, from which he planned to catch a redeye flight to Philadelphia that was scheduled to arrive at 6:15 a.m. EST today.
Although he did not yet know all the financial details of his contract, Shotwell said he expects this morning to sign a deal that would land him on the team’s practice squad.
“I know that typically practice squad (players) are making around six grand a week,” Shotwell said.
And for Shotwell, who received a workout but no contract offer from Green Bay in October, it’s been a long time coming.
“It definitely feels good,” he said. “I’ve been putting in so much work, really my whole life, especially since my season last year at Cal Poly. They’ve been great experiences, but from a monetary standpoint it hasn’t been too good. I’m going to start making money, which is nice.”
The 6-foot-1, 235-pound Shotwell won the Buck Buchanan Award as the top defensive player in Division I-AA after finishing the 2006 season with 122 tackles and seven sacks. It was the third straight year a member of Cal Poly’s front seven had won the award. Gocong won it after ringing up 23.5 sacks as a defensive end in 2005 and linebacker Jordan Beck – now with the Denver Broncos – took the prize after logging 135 tackles, 5.5 sacks and four interceptions in 2004.
Shotwell, though, wasn’t invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in February before April’s draft, as Gocong and Beck were before him. After Shotwell ran a 4.5-second 40-yard dash at Cal Poly’s pro day in March, two scouts from NFC teams told the Mustang Daily they were impressed with his workout.
Still, Shotwell went undrafted and signed a three-year free-agent deal with Oakland on April 29. He had a productive training camp and led the Raiders with seven tackles in their preseason finale at Seattle, but was among the team’s final cuts shortly before the season opener.
Nearly three months later, Shotwell has his chance again.
“That’s why I’ve been staying in shape and staying ready,” he said. “I’ve been working out really hard. I’m ready.”
When asked if he would eventually hope to make the active roster, Shotwell said, “That’s the goal. I want to learn the system, give it a look in practice, really establish myself as a hard-working guy.”
It’s a system in which Gocong has fared well, coming up with 50 tackles (37 solo) this year. His only sack of the season came Sunday night when he nailed Tom Brady, one of just 13 times the likely league MVP has been brought down this year.
“To learn from a guy like Jim Johnson will be awesome,” Shotwell said of the Eagles’ defensive coordinator.
It’s been exactly a year and 10 days since Shotwell last roamed the middle of Mustang Memorial Field. And now he’ll be wearing green once again.
“It’s been so quick,” Shotwell said. “I’m going to go out there and represent my family and Cal Poly well.”
Brown’s star rising quickly in Dallas
Every year, only a handful of seventh-round rookies around the NFL even make active rosters, let alone play on Sundays.
Former Cal Poly cornerback Courtney Brown, though, has already become a top-flight special teamer for the Dallas Cowboys. Listed as a third-string free safety and wearing No. 27 for Dallas, Brown has been all over the field on kickoff and punt coverage units the past couple weeks.
After spending the first eight games of the season for the Cowboys (10-1) on the inactive list with a mysterious biceps injury, Brown has made the most of his last three games.
Against Washington on Nov. 18, Brown made a crucial fourth-quarter tackle of Redskins punt returner Antwaan Randle El for no gain, which helped seal Dallas’ 28-23 win in the final minute. The play received praise afterward from Terrell Owens in the Cowboys’ locker room, in which Owens – who was presented the game ball for his four-touchdown masterpiece – singled out Brown’s special-teams play as an example for teammates, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
On Thanksgiving, Brown recovered a fumble on kickoff coverage in the first quarter against the Jets.
Of his role on the Cowboys’ special teams, Brown recently told the Dallas Morning News: “You gotta know which way the play’s going. The (return team) will tell you which way the play’s going, so you gotta read that, read your blocks and get your fit.”
Brown was rarely thrown at as a shutdown corner at Cal Poly in 2006. He had apparently shot up the draft board by running a 4.32 40 in March but fell into the seventh round, where the Cowboys nabbed him at No. 212 overall.
Brown made a name for himself at Cal Poly by picking off a I-AA school-record seven passes in 2005. Now it appears the Cowboys might have found a steal of their own.