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Former Arizona State players sign UDFA contracts after NFL Draft

(AP Photos)

The Arizona State football program saw three former players get the call during the 2018 NFL Draft over the weekend.

Running back Kalen Ballage was selected No. 131 overall by the Miami Dolphins, while linebacker Christian Sam and offensive lineman Sam Jones were both selected in the sixth round by the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos, respectively.

Following the draft, running back Demario Richard announced via Twitter he had signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent, while defensive lineman JoJo Wicker signed with the Detroit Lions.

The duo played major roles on both sides of the ball for the Sun Devils during their time with the program.

A four-year contributer out of the backfield, Richard earned honorable mention for All-Pac-12 honors during his freshman campaign, rushing for 478 yards and four touchdowns on 84 carries.

As a sophomore, he led the backfield with 1,104 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, also recording three touchdowns through the air along with 303 yards.

Richard was an All-Pac-12 selection during his senior season, rushing for 1,027 yards and 12 touchdowns to go along with eight receptions for 67 yards.

The 5-foot-9, 218-pound senior was projected by experts to be signed as a free agent after he ran a 4.7-second 40-yard dash at the combine and recorded 12 reps on the bench.

Unlike his former teammate, Wicker elected to forego his senior season in Tempe and declare for the draft. He was, however, reportedly contemplating a return to the program after first-year head coach Herm Edwards hired Wicker’s former high school coach, Antonio Pierce, to lead the linebackers next season.

Wicker played virtually every position on the Sun Devils’ defensive line during his tenure in Tempe, on the field for 98 percent of the defensive snaps last season.

The 6-foot-2, 296-pounder made an impact from the very beginning for the Sun Devils, recording 21 tackles and four sacks as a freshman. He also forced two fumbles to earn Freshman All-American honors.

His production improved each season.

As a junior, Wicker had 138 tackles and 17.5 sacks in 12 games, but his frame and below-average strength concerned NFL scouts. He was projected to be a fifth-round pick in this year’s NFL Draft.

Linebacker DJ Calhoun also made the jump to the next level, as he tweeted that he was signed by the Cleveland Browns.

Calhoun was one of the most consistent defensive players for the Sun Devils – he appeared in every game over his four-year career, amassing 237 tackles and 19.5 sacks total.

Last season, his 99 tackles were the ninth-most in the Pac-12 and 6.5 sacks was tied for second-most among linebackers. Calhoun was named an All-Pac-12 honorable mention.

He will join former ASU kicker Zane Gonzalez in Cleveland.

Along with Richard, Wicker and Calhoun, Arizona State longsnapper Mitchell Fraboni also got his chance at the next level.

The former walk-on turned scholarship player announced on his Twitter that he had received a mini camp invite from the Tennessee Titans.

Fraboni earned Pac-12 All-Academic honors during his senior season.


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